Bread and salt.

If you walked into a Ukrainian prairie household in 1902, when my great-great grandparents immigrated to Mazeppa, Saskatchewan, you would have been greeted with bread and salt.

It’s potato day. I’m a Canadian mongrel, made up of semi-equal parts English, Ukrainian, Romanian and not-sure-what-else. If you ask me my ethnic background, though, I’ll say “Ukrainian”. After all, I’m short and round. It fits. Mostly, I like vodka, but to be quite honest, it makes me fall asleep. In the middle of the party. I don’t know on which of my other heritages to blame that particular party quirk, but I’m sure my Ukrainian ancestors roll over in their graves watching me doze on the couch while the fête rages on around me.

Did someone mention potatoes?

In honour of potato day, I turned to my Ukrainian Daughters Cookbook. For real. According to the cover, it’s a “Canadian bestseller”, published by the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada, Daughters of Ukraine Branch, Regina, Saskatchewan.  I have the eighth printing, from 1992. I made the Potato Bread. According to Ukrainian Daughters, it’s “a delicious fine-textured bread with a crisp crust”.

Potato Bread

potato bread (it really did have a crisp crust)

There’s something about the smell of bread baking, isn’t there?  Jim is a reformed Cathoholic.  Once, early in our relationship, he was sleeping over on Good Friday.  Fasting, but sleeping over.  It was a rare day off, so I made bread.  I think I made 8 loaves: some plain, some with cheese, some with garlic.  Jim, fasting, ate none.  The next day, while I was at work, Jim ate an entire loaf of bread.  He ate it with butter.  He ate it with jam.  He just ate it.  I sort of think bread is why Jim proposed.  I know it’s why he bought me my KitchenAid stand mixer.

Potatoes are actually pretty darned bland when you get right down to it. Funny that they should evoke such a passionate reaction in so many cultures. What about the good ol’ baked potato, for instance? Jim likes his tossed onto the barbeque about 20 minutes before the steak. No butter, sour cream, bacon bits or chives for him; the potato’s role is to soak up the juice from his extremely rare steak (ugh).


the way Jim likes it

Then there is the perfect Italian pillow of deliciousness: gnocchi. Basically the Italian “pierogi” (a misnomer, really; the proper word is “varenyky” or варе́ники, but don’t trust the Ukrainians, Cheemo must be right). I had my gnocchi (yes, hand-made.  can’t you tell?) tonight with a brown butter sage sauce.  An adaptation from one of Mario’s recipes.

gnocchi with brown butter sage sauce

Italian varenyky

Jim had his potato exactly how he liked it.  I guess I should come clean now.  We often have two dinners at our house.  I don’t like to eat four-legged animals.  Jim does.  Due to an unfortunate university experience, Jim likes neither varenyky nor gnocchi.  We did, however, share a salad tonight.

And for dessert, some Ukrainian Daughters potato bread, finely textured with a crisp crust. I had a slice with some hazelnut honey from honeyshop. Jim had his with raspberry jam. Not sure if they were my mom’s raspberries, or his mom’s.  He’s a bit of a jam hoarder, actually.