These old world russian tea cakes are part of my history. My first trip to Russia was in 1988. It was momentous. As History.com explains, Mikhail S. Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Communist Party “…in March 1985, and he launched his nation on a dramatic new course. His dual program of “perestroika” (“restructuring”) and “glasnost” (“openness”) introduced profound changes in economic practice, internal affairs and international relations. Within five years, Gorbachev’s revolutionary program swept communist governments throughout Eastern Europe from power and brought an end to the Cold War (1945-91), the largely political and economic rivalry between the Soviets and the United States and their respective allies that emerged following World War II.”
I’ve returned to the Soviet Union two more times since then and the changes that I’ve seen have been nothing short of incredible. From women’s activism to posh beautiful couture designer stores erupting, Russia was in a transformation that forever change the imprint of its people. One of my visits to this stunning country was in December of 1996. Oh my gosh, you can only imagine hold cold it is there at that time of the year. So cold that when we landed in Moscow, the plane’s doors were frozen and couldn’t be opened. Ironically, playing on the sound system in the airplane was the American beach song, ‘Under the Boardwalk’! After sitting on the tarmac for a few hours, we finally deplaned. It was an experience to remember from that moment and throughout the entire trip.
Of course, some of my most memorable experiences came with food and eating. My husband, Ben and I, had the privilege of being invited into the small apartment, located in a pre-WW2 building, of a family we’d met. What captured my intrigue immediately were the number of locks, all types and kinds, on the doors. I say doors plural because the first door, made of steel, opened to the second door, made of heavy thick wood, where there were more locks and bolts. Yes, it was like the wild west, I think, and families that had Western luxuries like televisions, cameras, cell phones and technology were always afraid of being robbed. Our dinner was in a small kitchen, retro style, think 1930s. We all sat snuggled in a corner booth style table passing around the amazing food family style. Hot soup, root vegetables, whole garlic stems that had been sauteed, meat, bread, vodka, wine and, yes, dessert. Cookies. Russian Tea Cakes. That’s the inspiration for this recipe. In honor of and celebrating the memories of Vladymir, Tatania and Polina with whom we are still close friends and realizing our worlds, our dreams, desires and hopes, were all the same regardless of what country we were from. Food has a way of helping us realize that we truly are one world family.
xox ~peace & namaste~ ally