The Joy of Zakuski
Today is Russian Christmas and there are a dozen semi-specific foods, along with designated table settings associated with the holiday (http://www.destinationsdreamsanddogs.com/russian-christmas/, http://www.destinationsdreamsanddogs.com/preserving-an-adoptee%E2%80%99s-culture-and-customs/). We do the kutya and have hay strewn across the table, along with a big white candle, indicating the Light of the World. Though it’s pretty much the same each year, this time, our New Year’s Eve celebration lingers in my mind.
In one word: zakuski-! These are Russian appetizers, small morsels, often served at parties or receptions. Not really seated dining room fare, zakuski are often found in buffets or passed by waiters at upscale parties. For New Year’s Eve at home, we transformed the dining room table into a virtual tableau of one zakuska after another, which is highly unusual, as is the fact that it was our main meal of the evening.
Believe me, nobody went hungry.
Russian Christmas strikes me as another time to emphasize a light sampling of many different types of finger (or fork) food. Usually, zakuski include salads, pickled vegetables, breads, fish, meat slices, and don’t forget caviar (though I’d be happy to). Think boiled and buttered potatoes with petrushka (parsley), some black bread and mushrooms. Consider bite-sized blinchiki (sweet cheese blintzes) and piroshki (pastries usually filled with meat, mushrooms, potato or cabbage). How about a tiny espresso cup with borsch and smetana? Or, you can always aim for the twelve most traditional foods for Rozhdyestvo (Christmas).
Yum, yum, and yum.
Remember, you’re aiming for a taste here and a nibble there. Hopefully, this will help on the waistline. Use small tea plates, whether it’s your fine china or an attractive display of mismatched patterns. Add lively conversation and balalaikas strumming Gori in the background. You’re grazing, you’re noshing, you’re transported to the time of the Tsars. Put some matryoshkas (nesting dolls) or a brightly-printed, babushka’s (grandmother’s) flowery shawl on the table for atmosphere.
Happy Russian Christmas, everyone!
—————-Tags: 12 foods for Russian Christmas, a sampling of Russian foods, appetizers Russian-style, Russian Christmas celebrations, Russian Christmas traditions, the joy of Russian zakuski