Memories of times past and Zoom

For the past few months while finding new outlets, I’ve been captured by programs on Zoom. I wrote about some of the programs I’ve been enjoying from films, to wine tastings, to cooking demonstrations, and some exercise classes thrown in irregularly. I’m sure there is so much more available, but I do have some work I’m trying to do and sweet sleep that calls me frequently.

I seem to have clicked almost exclusively into Jewish cooking demo/classes. This is an area that I think I know something about; there’s always room to learn more. Two non-Jewish platforms that I know are out there is King Arthur Flour. They offer The Isolation Baking Show for the homebound (https://www.kingarthurflour.com/videos/the-isolation-baking-show) . I admit I’ve rarely watched this one, thought.

The Culinary Historians of Chicago is a group I found long before this limbo time began. They used to meet face-to-face every month, drawn together for an interesting talk on something to do with food. They’ve taken their gatherings on-line and they’ve been most fascinating (see the June 22 post for more information and links).

Jewish food and cooking can be found in numerous zoom and other presentations. I recently joined the Jewish Cooking around the World course, offered by the Orlando Jewish Community Center. Last week, I wrote about an Iraqi Jewish food demonstration by cookbook author and artist Linda Dangoor hosted by Harif, Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa. Her recipes for an imaginative Cucumber/Goat Cheese Appetizer and, Masgouf, a traditional fish dish can be found here: http://harif.org/summer-flavours-of-babylon-virtual-cookery-demonstration/. I also wrote about Sephardic cooking demonstrations with Susan Barocas hosted by The Sephardic Brotherhood of America and on their Sephardic Digital Academy. Recipes are posted here: https://www.sephardicbrotherhood.com/sephardicrecipies.

Just this week, the Jewish Food Society (https://www.jewishfoodsociety.org/ ) carried us off to a summer country dacha for a Russian picnic prepared by Darra Goldstein and Sasha Shor. Goldstein opened her home and garden in the Berkshires as she described the elements of a “dacha state of mind,” comprised of foraging, gardening, preserving vegetables, and eating outside, all ended with a trip to the “banya” or Russian sauna. Appetites were sparked by the wonderful picnic she assembled: vodka infused with elderflower, kvass (beet drink) and other beverages, black bread, sauerkraut, farmer’s cheese with cut vegetables, and fruit for dessert. The cheese and chopped vegetables (scallion, cucumber, radishes) reminded me of a favorite summer salad our mother made with sour cream in place of the farmer’s cheese.

Next we went indoor to Shor’s kitchen where she made three of her favorite picnic foods. First was pickled watermelon, a sweet and sour treat. Next was a chilled dairy and vegetable soup, okroshka. Finally she skillfully assembled a stuffed Russian hand pie – potato, scallion and egg piriozhki. All the recipes and more are found here: https://www.jewishfoodsociety.org/posts/2018/6/27/the-russian-picnic-tradition-a-family-smuggled-out-of-the-ussr?rq=Russian%20picnic.

While my mouth watered watching this excellent program, I was reminded of a trip (for a museum conference) to Russia in 2013. It seems like almost yesterday – perhaps time is standing still as we remain in limbo with the Coronavirus. Toward the end of our stay, we were taken by bus to the New Jerusalem Monastery near Moscow.

Restoration underway at New Jerusalem, 2013

We went to a nearby living history museum for an amazing feast, much like the dacha picnic demonstrated above.

The groaning table (I kid you not) was laid with all sorts of pickles and salads. I think we had a bit of everything described in the Russian Picnic program.

The groaning table

The unending feast, not your ordinary picnic, opened with vodka toasts (I don’t think it was infused):

We had pickles, vegetables, salads, mushrooms (something foraged), fresh fruits, and lots of fresh herbs, piriozhki, and meats:

Foraged mushrooms

Piriozhki,

And food cooked over open fires – chicken kebabs and plov (rice pilaf), just like the zoom hosts described:

The famous and tasty plov

Our picnic ended with the ubiquitous Russian tea served with the samovar:

Who knows how long this time in between the “normal” of just a few months ago and what awaits. I’m glad to have found zoom cooking adventures that bring back memories of travel and food and being with friends.

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