Olena Braichenko: “Ukrainian cuisine is not a version of Soviet cuisine”

At the beginning of March, a book entirely devoted to the specialties and culinary customs of Ukraine was published by La Martinière.

Its author, Olena Braichenko, now back in Kyiv, talks about her book. Specialties, export products, sharing, culinary transmission …

First of all, how are you doing and where are you now?

Olena Braichenko : I just got back to a suburb of Kyiv which was partially destroyed. Russian troops do not occupy the area. I have projects in Czech Republic and in Great Britain, so I would like to go on a trip. However, it is difficult to see long-term projects at the moment … At home, I set up one vast library. I would like to take the time to scan them. I especially don’t want to lose them …

How did you come up with the idea of ​​writing a book with all the specifics of Ukrainian cuisine?

At the request of the institution promoting the image of Ukraine abroad, I have set up a team of researchers and leaders to demonstrate richness and uniqueness of Ukrainian cuisine. The names of people who think of a version of Soviet gastronomy or Soviet gastronomy do not exist, simply step of Ukrainian cuisine. The project first took on a numerical form. I have been working in the food industry for ten years.

What is the difference between Ukrainian and Russian cuisine?

I admit that I do not appreciate answering this question, when it is formulated in this way at least. It would be absurd, for example, to compare the cuisine of northern France with that of the south. My tension rises more when I hear this question than when a siren sounds … That’s the notion of comparison who is sensitive.

What are the foundations of Ukrainian cuisine?

to seasonality is paramount in the DNA of Ukrainian cuisine. When they peaches arrive, it is known that this heralds the imminent arrival of autumn. Winter becomes concrete when the markets are the vegetables which will be used for fermented recipes. This concerns the cabbage e.g. In my village, which was recently vacated, the inhabitants are rented for rainfall so as not to assess when they should be planted. potatoes. In a few weeks you will get the new potato, which is cooked with butter and dill. It is accompanied by the first salads of cucumbers. This is a harbinger of the summer.

On the other hand, the Ukrainian population has a very strong attachment to animated. When my village was occupied by the conflict, Russian soldiers questioned my neighbor, who had remained. They did not understand why she had not left the village. Elle replied: “I have two cows. I can’t leave and abandon them!”. There are many respect for the living.

One of the other peculiarities of Ukrainian cuisine is its ability to rationalization of consumption. We know them stor to make them last and make reservations.

That’s why the fermentation process is essential in the culinary culture of your payment …

Absolutely, and there is the drying and the smoking. This applies to apples, pears, cherries …

Is the notion of sharing important?

The extreme hospitality is also part of our culinary culture. You can’t give up a Ukrainian family without doing yourself a favor. You will be offered a cake, like a kind of four-quarters topped with cream, if not small sofas for example.

To exchange with you, I had to go to a village that had an internet connection. I moved in with my sister for the occasion. I had breakfast this morning, of course, but she didn’t fail to make me some cakes! That’s part of it duty of housewife.

Besides, when someone is invited, the latter must I share with you a piece of what was prepared. This can be a dish to eat right away or to eat later. Food is a language of solicitude and love. It’s a way to show your commitment to that person.

How does culinary transmission work within your culture?

Ukrainian families are accustomed to noting in notebooks their own recipes. These notebooks are then passed from one woman to another. There are not many cookbooks dedicated to Ukrainian gastronomy. The transmission actually takes place by practice. First, we observe how the cook operates. Then you are invited to get your hands on the dough.

Is cooking the prerogative of women or do men also go behind the stove?

It is believed that the kitchen is rather a women’s affair. This is one of the qualities of a good housewife in Ukraine. Nevertheless, what are bien des hommes that own professional kitchens.

With this conflict, many readers have discovered that Ukraine is full of resources, especially wheat and rapeseed. What other iconic culinary productions do we absolutely need to know?

they rapethey wheat and the sunflower are in fact the flagship products exported through Ukraine. Moreover, so am I. lamb and berries such as raspberry and the blueberries or the he had asked and the peaches. And then, in the last five years, the country has developed a production ofsnails. 80% are destined for foreign markets. Ukraine is finally exporting poultryespecially du chicken to Europe, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

Several million refugees have been received in Europe since the beginning of the conflict. In this way we will learn more about their culture. In the kitchen, in your opinion, what specialties and recipes will they teach us in the first place?

Surely they will teach you how to make one soup. They will also cook varenikifrom potato ravioli, but also from stuffed cabbagefrequently Ukrainian style escalopeswhich are breaded as for the Milanese version.

You mentioned the borscht right away. Is this the most iconic recipe in your country’s culinary culture?

This is the dish with which one can best represent the diversity of Ukrainian cuisine. It is prepared by anyone family and you will also find à la carte au restaurant. It is prepared as well for daily meals than for landmark events like a wedding or after a funeral.

This conflict is trying to destabilize the Ukrainian identity. Do you think that the kitchen plays a role in representing and maintaining the Ukrainian identity?

Ukrainian identity is based primarily on stock. It’s not just a matter of cooking. We are attached to freedom! We want to maintain our free and independent country.

(“Ukraine, Cuisine and History” – Olena Braichenko, Maryna Hrymych, Ihor Lylo and Vitaly Reznichenko – Chefs: Yaroslav Artyukh, Vitaliy Guralevych, Denys Komarenko, V’Yacheslav Popkov, Oksana Zadorozhna and Olena Zhabotynska de Edini)

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