March is here and spring is just around the corner. It’s also National Nutrition Month (NNM) and this year’s theme “Celebrate a World of Flavors,” is exciting as it embraces global cultures and cuisines, giving every culture a place at the table. My husband and I love to travel and this theme made me think about our pre-pandemic trips and all the delicious foods we had on our table.
In Greece we dined on Spanakopita (spinach pie) and Galaktoboureko (custard pie) and in Norway, we enjoyed Vaffles and Brunost (waffles and brown cheese). Some of our favorite experiences; however, were when we prepared local cuisine with local chefs. In Poland we rolled the dough and ‘pinched’ meat-filled perogies and in Spain we made seafood paella in the largest frying pan I ever saw! These experiences not only broadened our palate, but also provided us with insight into and appreciation of other cultures.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about my own Ukrainian heritage and the meal traditions and recipes we observed especially around the holidays. Growing up, I remember making paska or Easter Bread in coffee cans with my mother a few days before Easter, and the debate about which kind of raisins to add – brown or golden yellow raisins (yellow seemed to win out more often). Then I would watch my mother assemble her big wicker basket with an Ukrainian embroidered basket liner which held the paska, hard-cooked and brilliantly colored eggs called krashanky, salt, butter, grated horseradish, kielbasa, and poppyseed bread, which she took to her church to be blessed the Saturday before Easter.
Though my mother has passed, she remains in spirit and inspired me this past Christmas to dust off her old Ukrainian cookbooks and make homemade pierogies, a traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve dish. With the assistance of my husband and daughter (pierogi maker-in-training), we made potato and cheese filled perogies smothered in onions that would make my mother proud!
In celebration of this year’s NNM’s theme, Why not commit to trying a new food from another cultural cuisine? Below are some suggestions to get you started:
- Host a ‘Heritage Day’ and have your friends or coworkers prepare and share their favorite cultural foods.
- When eating out, try a restaurant that serves a cuisine that is new to you.
- Each week, during this month, explore a different international culture and prepare one new food from a different culture.
As for me, I’m off to Costa Rica to attend a wedding and send-off brunch. I can’t wait to try Gallo Pinto (traditional rice and bean breakfast)!