Bely Alexander. The Belarusian Cookbook

Bely Alexander. The Belarusian Cookbook
21.00 р.
Вага: 600 г
Памеры: 150x225 мм

New York : Hippocrene Books, Inc., 2009. – 250 pages. Hardcover.

ISBN-13 978-0-7818-1209-2
ISBN-10 0-7818-1209-7

Belarusian cuisine traces its roots back through many centuries and is based on a way of life that has survived from generation to generation. Though it is similar to the hearty, home-style offerings of Russian and Ukrainian cuisine, Belarusian cooking has its own distinctive specialties, including the well-known draniki, potato fritters served with fried mushrooms and sour cream, and all manner of dumplings, soups, and meat dishes.

With recipes from both the aristocracy and peasants, this book offers readers the best of the Belarusian table.

More than 190 easy-to-prepare, authentic recipes
A guide to the staples of the Belarusian kitchen
Enticing menus for Christmas and Easter


The Belarusian Kitchen
Pancakes, Fritters, Dumplings, and Stuffed Pies
Grains and Legumes
Sauces, Toppings and Dips
Desserts and Beverages
Holiday Menus


Although Belarusian cuisine derives from the same common sources as the cuisines of the other two Eastern Slavonic peoples – Russians and Ukrainians – it is not as well known. This book reconstructs many of the traditional recipes, both of the peasants and of the aristocracy, with the aim of pleasing palates, of course, but also to restore national culinary traditions which have been largely eclipsed during the tumultuous last century. Indeed, for years the very idea of a separate Belarusian cuisine was politically suspect. Only after World War II did Communist authorities proclaim that the "flourishing of national culture" should also be evident in the cuisine. Unfortunately, the only source that was permitted for such a culinary reconstruction was the waning heritage of the peasants. Chefs were instructed by the Party, however, to create a new Belarusian cuisine from scratch. And so it was. Dish names, recipes, kitchenware – all were reinvented anew, as though ten centuries of history had never existed. Some of these recipes appear in this book as well.

Belarusian cuisine, aside from its predominantly Eastern Slavonic roots, is very close to Lithuanian. The first Belarusian state entity, the Polatsk principality, conquered Lithuania back in the nth century, and remained the core and center of the state for some 200 years. In the 13th and 14th centuries, however, Lithuanians gained the upper hand, and gradually took over today's Belarus, as well as much of today's Western Russia and Ukraine, creating a huge Grand Duchy of Lithuania, stretching in the 15th century from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. The majority of its citizens were Belarusian-speaking, and Old Belarusian was the main official language. No wonder that the two cuisines are so close, as is particularly clear in northwest Belarus, which lies next to Vilnius, the former shared capital.

The Grand Duchy united with Poland in 1569, introducing a new set of culinary influences. The Polish elite and the Belarusian nobility borrowed much from Italian, German, and French cuisines, although this influence did not spread among the peasant majority until the abolition of serfdom in 1861. Some borrowed dishes, however, became popular throughout society, such as lazanki (a mixture of flour dumplings and stewed meat, related to lasagna). Belarusian cuisine also owes much to Jewish cooking, since for centuries Jews had a virtual monopoly on inn-keeping. In the 19th century, Jewish innkeepers introduced potato dishes of German origin, such as babka (the kugel of the Jewish cuisine). This was a two-way gastronomic street, for the famous bulba latkes, the potato pancakes of the East European Jews, bear a Belarusian name.

Finally, there was a strong Tartar influence. The Tartar attack on Russia and Ukraine in the 13th century led to the unification of the future Belarusians and Lithuanians into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and from the end of the 14th century onward, Tartars either settled in Belarus as prisoners of war, captured by the Grand Duke Vitaut, or voluntarily, as refugees from the Golden Horde. They retained their Islamic faith, but gradually lost their Turkish language, adopting a Belarusian dialect. Starting in the 16th century, their religious books were written in Belarusian, but with Arabic letters. Skillful warriors in the endless wars with the Crimean Khanate, Ottoman Empire, and Muscovite Russia, they for the most part remained loyal to their new motherland. Many of them subsequently became generals in the Polish and Russian armies. Prohibited by local laws from having more than one wife, they married Belarusian women if the latter agreed to accept Islam. Despite a drastic decline in their numbers, this small community spread into Poland and Lithuania. The Tartars still maintain their own customs, including their cuisine, to a greater extent than any other ethnic group in Belarus, including the Belarusians themselves. For centuries, the Belarusian Tartars have been known as excellent cooks, especially skilled at preparing mutton, horse meat, goose, and vegetables, and they introduced many new spices and vegetables from the Ottoman Empire, with which they maintained close relations.

Historical documents are rich with descriptions of old culinary traditions. In the early 15th century, whole fried aurochs from the primeval Belaviezha forest, now a national preserve, were sent as a gift to the German emperor. Records with details of the export of the candied roots of Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus) to Western Europe date back to the 16th century. An early 17th century political pamphlet first mentions roast goose with kasha and mushrooms, which was also famously served by Count Abuhovich-Bandinelli to his friends in Paris in the mid-19th century.

There are fascinating records of feasts given by some of the most powerful and wealthy families, such as the Radziwills, the Sapiehas, and the Tyshkievichs. The Radziwill family, for instance, began to build up its wealth and influence in the 15th century; by the 18th century, it had become the largest landowner and the richest magnate in the state, with a large private army and almost 500,000 subjects in dozens of cities and thousands of villages throughout present-day Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine. The Belarusian town of Niasvizh served as the family's informal capital. Prince Karol Stanislaw Radziwill (1734-1790) was particularly known for the ornate meals he gave, as well as for his flamboyance and patriotism. On November 25, 1789, he hosted a feast in Warsaw for 4,000 people to celebrate the coronation of King Stanislaw August and to commemorate the Union of Lithuania with the Crown. The Sapiehas held a feast in 1632 in Dziarechnyn, at which wines from Cyprus, Spain, Italy, and Hungary were served – 365 varieties, corresponding to the days of the year. Some of the recipes noted down by the chefs for these and other prominent families are included in this book.

At the same time, with their limited means and seasonal supply of food, the peasants came up with ingenious ways of preparing tasty and nutritious foods. This book pays homage to these traditions as well.

ALEXANDER BELY was born in Minsk, Belarus. He holds a doctorate degree in history from Klaipeda University, Lithuania, and has written numerous articles on the history of Belarusian food and drink as well as on other issues of national identity and the history of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. His column, "Nasha Strava" (Our Dish), appears in a weekly newspaper in Minsk, where he resides.

Belarus – an Eastern European country bordered by Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia – has a surprisingly rich and exotic culinary heritage. While Belarusian cuisine derives from the same common sources as Russian and Ukrainian cuisine, it is not as well known. Alexander Bely, a historian and native of Belarus, carefully reconstructs traditional recipes, both of the peasants and of the aristocracy, with the aim of pleasing palates as well as bringing to light the culinary traditions which have survived quietly in the kitchens of home cooks – not quite forgotten over the course of the tumultuous last century.

This cookbook is a fascinating exploration of Belarusian history and food, and Bely pays particular attention to the prominent Jewish influence on the cuisine. Including nearly 200 recipes, the chapters cover the range of home cooking from Appetizers, Soups, Dumplings, and Main Courses, to Desserts and Beverages. Specialties include Traditional Borshch with Beet Kvass, Goose Stuffed with Kasha and Mushrooms, all varieties of bliny (pancakes) and kalduny (small boiled dumplings), along with recipes for kvass, a fermented mildly alcoholic beverage.

A guide to the staples of the Belarusian kitchen along with special holiday menus for Christmas and Easter round out this unique cookbook.