Sitting at home instead of staring at four walls or the television, people are returning to the printed word. Book Clubs are popular again and people from various locations join using ZOOM. Some people have reverted back to the days of hardbound books and paperbacks. Others prefer reading ebooks on their electronic device. There are also people who just want to recline in a relaxing chair with a refreshing drink in their hand and listen to the book being read to them. Whatever the preference, they provide an escape for the reader.

There is an abundance of books written by a torrent of authors, each with their own style and depth of description of events, places, and characters. With such a variety available, read a diversity of authors and an assortment of subject matters. Take advantage of this “stay at home” time and broaden your knowledge of historical events and the culture and food of countries that exist today.

Not only are more people reading books at this time, but more people are busy in the kitchen experimenting with preparing new dishes. Why not combine the two, a book you are reading and a dish the author mentions. Biographies and fiction books many times name a dish the characters are having for a meal. For example, take the book A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW by Amor Towles. Several dishes are mentioned in the book and the recipes for them can be found on the internet.

A cold soup on a hot summer day called Okroshka is a delicious first course. Okroshka is a classic Russian soup served mainly in the summer and always served cold. The main ingredients consist of chopped raw vegetables like cucumbers, radishes, and spring onions; plus boiled potatoes and boiled eggs. Cooked meat such as beef, veal, sausage, or ham can be added. The one ingredient that makes Okroshka special is kvas. This is a fermented beverage classified as non-alcohol because it contains only about 1 percent alcohol produced in the fermentation process. Russians have been making it for about a thousand years. Originally it was made at home, then when the Soviet Union became industrialized, it could be purchased from street vendors. Today people will find it in cans like soft drinks at Russian markets throughout the world. Unlike soft drinks, kvas is great for our metabolism, our cardiovascular system, and for healthy hair and skin. People drink it as a thirst-quenching beverage in hot weather. This soup is so easy: put the chopped ingredients in a bowl and just before serving, pour in the can of kvas (remember this is a soup so the ratio of dry ingredients to the kvas should be like cereal is to milk) and mix it like you would a salad dressing with salad ingredients. Then, ladle it into individual serving bowls and add a scoop of sour cream garnished with fresh dill.

To keep the Russian theme for the meal, follow the soup with Latvian stew, and for dessert have a slice of Hungarian Dobos Torte. These two dishes are also mentioned in the book A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW and I will tell you about them in future blogs.

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