Monday, 2 February 2015

Meal 47. Belarusian Draniki and Bliny

This meal is quite special to me, as it marks the continuation of the project in the UK. Inni is my first host in Oxford and is cooking for me at her student housing in the centre of town.
Impressively, she has gained a full scholarship, and is one of the few Belarusian students in the UK, though the country is quite big, with a population of around 10 million.
I have to admit my mind goes pretty blank when the country Belarus is mentioned, though it is really not that far away (bordering Poland and Lithuania). Strangely, Belarusian cities like Minsk and Brest seem a lot more familiar. I even had a friend planning to travel "between four Brests", as there are cities called Brest not only in Belarus, but in France, Germany and Macedonia as well.

The dinner starts with traditional fare that I do associate with the region: red cabbage salad (very easy to make) and potato pancakes called draniki. They are made with grated potatoes and onions and bound with some egg and flour. Very similar to the latkes my father often makes, though Inni uses a much finer grater. The desert, bliny, crêpe like pancakes, again reminds me of a dish my dad makes, called blintzes (see Meal 17. Jewish-American Borsht, Challah and Blintzes). This might just be because his family came from the Ukraine, near Belarus, with similar cuisine. Though Inni tells me the medium-sized town she grew up in, called Borisov, used to be predominantly Jewish. However, most of them left or were killed long before she was born.

Belarus has opened up considerably after the Soviet collapse, but is still pretty much a communist state. When prodded, Inni can come up with memories of how rare bananas were when she was younger. In her recollection, her mother came home one special day with a whole suitcase of bananas. Inni didn't really like them as they were too firm for her taste. By the time they had ripened and become softer, she discovered she loved them. But by then, they were almost finished and she had to wait a long time before she could eat them again!
This story is quite 'exotic' to me and seems typical for someone from a former Soviet state. In most other aspects, I have to say Inni is very much a product of the global village; speaking fluent English, well travelled within Europe and even planning a trip to Nepal.

I give her the names and email addresses of my Nepalese friends (see Meal 2.) and imagine a distant reunion of 80meals participants.

To make your own Belarusian meal, click here for recipes (that Inni diligently penned down for me, at right).

(The original post about this meal is from July 7, 2008)

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