Я родилась, выросла и закончила иняз в Москве. Живу в Бельгии, но связь с любимой Москвой не обрывается. Владею четырьмя языками. Первую книгу я написала в 3 года, иллюстрации были авторские, сборник рассказов вышел тиражом 1 экземпляр и вызвал бурный восторг читателей. Мечтаю повторить успех.
I was born, grew up and graduated in Moscow. Now I live at the Belgian coast but stay in touch with my beloved Moscow. I fluently speak four languages. At the age of three I wrote my first book, with author illustrations, released in a limited one copy edition, followed by tremendous success with the grateful public. My dream is to reach such triumph again.
Bun and Butter
A happy childhood memory: summer sunshine wakes me up in my grandmother’s fluffy feather bed and I hear Granny cooking quietly in the kitchen.
-Olinka, dear, are you awake? What would you like for breakfast?
-Pancakes? Or shall I fry you some syrniki?
Granny, may I please have both pancakes and syrniki?
She nods. Grandmother cannot say “no” to me:
-But please do not tell your mother Lucy or she might reproach me again.
-I won’t say anything, my sweet Granny.
(For breakfast my mother would rather let me choose between raw rasped carrot and plain oatmeal porridge).
Grandmother’s pancakes and syrniki were served with fragrant strawberry jam and sour cream from the local market. The sour cream was so fat that the spoon could hardly enter and stood upright. Granny had a variety of homemade jams to choose from: strawberry, wild strawberry, blueberry, cherry: with or without pits (much tastier with pits), raspberry and apple. Those treasures were kept in a pantry, half of which was occupied by my father’s racing bike HV3 “Sport” and by my grandmother’s bags with breadcrumbs. Grandmother survived the war and famine and was physically unable to throw away any uneaten bread.
Those breadcrumbs had turned into stones, but she just could not let them go.
Granny had no taste for sweets, not even for jam, and her biggest culinary preference was bun and butter.
My grandmother Claudia named a loaf of white bread a “bun”.
When my grandmother was lucky to buy some freshly baked bread at the grocery store next door, she carried the loaf on her chest under her coat or jacket, easily ran up to the fifth floor and, while changing her shoes on the go, would call me from the corridor: “Olinka, dear, hurry up, come here, the bread is still warm”. Her eyes would shine joyfully, and her wrinkles would light up with happiness.
A samovar was set immediately. Granny would cut herself a thick slice of bread (not the end, the end of the loaf was for me) and carefully spread butter on it.
She always used a saucer to drink her very hot tea.
Tea, bread and butter is all you need to be happy.
Nearly twenty years later we are having dinner with my husband’s family at a restaurant with panoramic views over Epernay vineyards. Michelin stars wink at me inviting to culinary discoveries. Well, at least they promise us an intriguing meal.
Dishes have been ordered, we are sitting at a large round table, happy and tired after a busy day.
My husband’s aunt breaks off tiny bread pieces, butters each bit individually and gracefully eats with an obvious pleasure. Suddenly she spots my untouched bread plate. Marie-Paule asks: “Ma chère Olga, don’t you like bread?” I smile at her and answer: “I have already eaten enough bread in this life, ma chère Marie-Paule”.
She touches her perfectly brushed hair and says: “For me bread and butter is the best dessert ever”.
I sincerely do not understand how such an elegant wealthy woman also a wonderful cook, how she can love ordinary bread and butter. This is so boring. Anyway, tastes differ. I smile politely once again, showing that the topic may be closed.
And then I mentally tell Marie-Paule that I have eaten enough bread already, especially in those early nineties, when the USSR collapsed. When my father and mother, both engineers, ran out of special food supplies at work (“zakazi”), lost their salaries, and then the work itself. I really wanted fruit back then, I bitterly missed fruit. You see, some girls dream about a million of red or white roses, while I dreamt of a fruit stall. With those beautiful, colourful and appealing fruits. Mom could buy only four small apples at this stall, one piece per person precisely. I don’t want to think about it now, and I don’t want to eat bread either. I will eat foie gras with fig jam, lobster with black truffle, a little bit of sweetbread (ris de veau), then some sorbet and after, if I don’t explode, I might have some cheese. Without bread.
At the beginning of the first decade of the 21st century I want everything: scallops, mussels, snails, lobsters, crabs, oysters and all kinds of shrimps, steak (with blood) and the unforgettable marbled Kobe beef, preferably in the city of origin. I crave lobsters. Lobsters are so good that I learn to cook them, with a sauce by old family recipe (from my husband’s grandmother). France delights me with different types of pâté and cheese, and I fearlessly try almost all of them, even the stinkiest ones. Italy also beckons me to savor its cheese and desserts. How on earth did I live without grana padano, parmesan and gorgonzola cheese? Without tiramisu served with fresh strawberries?
Desserts are another story. French profiteroles and eclairs, macaroons, floating island (île flottante) and crème brûlée; Italian Sabayon and Panna Cotta; classic New York cheesecake from Junior’s; incredible Belgian chocolate (and I’m trying to conquer all the flavours of Belgian pralines, but chocolatiers Marcolini and Neuhaus tirelessly add new ones). I don’t miss a chance to get acquainted with any exotic fruits. I want to try everything! Everything! If you have read until here, let me please thank you. For your kind patience. This long narrative paragraph is chaotic and sometimes illogical. I just tried, without pretentious bragging, to depict my most vivid food impressions of that period (and they were indeed chaotic). For those of you who could not master my gastronomic stream of consciousness and read the content diagonally, I will summarize the above paragraph briefly: “She was really going for it.”
And now, almost another twenty years later, I unexpectedly started craving borscht and okroshka soups. An old simple beet salad (vinaigrette) and meat jelly (kholodets) with horseradish. I started craving syrniki, served with sour cream.
If today you offer me a choice: a passion fruit or a radish, I will not hesitate for a moment to pick a radish. Please do not laugh. And I love fresh crispy cucumbers, straight from the home garden, prickly and fragrant.
Unexpectedly I discovered (tа-dа!) a taste of bread and butter. This simple, classic and true taste. It came to me as an old friend whom you had not seen for ages, but it feels as if you never left each other. The taste of bread and butter – so profound and dear.
I will give out my recipe: first you need to get a little hungry. Take a good walk for example. On the way back you could also buy some bread, because to make the right sandwich you will need some freshly baked bread. Any type of bread will do: black or white, but not burnt; wheat, rye, buckwheat, bran, grain, yeast-free, Borodinsky Russian or French, even without gluten – the main thing is that you like this bread.
You will also need some good fresh natural cream butter. With a pure flavour and smell. Not salty. (If necessary – you will add some coarse salt yourself. Or some pepper, if you feel like eating spicy).
Preparation: slice a fair piece of bread and butter it generously.
Please sit down and make yourself comfortable, exhale, smile and eat thoughtfully your “bun” and butter. You may also think of your dear Granny and tell her thank you.
Olga Marusina 08 :13 September 09, 2019