Sunday, February 27, 2022

This Week

It's been a long and emotional week, what's happening in Ukraine began as unthinkable but is quickly starting to feel like it was inevitable with occasional flashes of worst-case scenarios which are not encouraging. 

I watched footage of the Berlin wall falling in my mid-teens, swiftly followed by footage from the Balkans as the map of Europe rearranged itself, and finally, relative peace that looked like it might stick to the point where I know I became complacent about it, even during the relatively recent examples of Russian aggression. Until Brexit and Trump, it felt like the world was slowly, with the occasional setback, set on an increasingly liberal trajectory. Does that ever seem naive now. 

I don't have any hot takes or helpful suggestions about fundraising, and even if I thought I did there are much more knowledgeable voices to listen to (I guess the Red Cross or Médecins Sans Frontières are always worth supporting though), but I am going to put in a word for a couple of cookbooks which are more or less the source of any knowledge I have about Ukraine.

This isn't as shallow as it might sound. Olia Hercules has written a lot about her native country, her family there, and the people she met researching and photographing her books. Every page is a reminder of the everyday lives of people, and the complicated ties to different countries that the Soviet Union created as it shifted those people around. The recipes show the diversity of experience and heritage, the photographs (when her first book, Mamushka, was published in 2015 the geopolitics were almost as volatile as now the risk in going to take those images was real enough to demand they signed safety waivers) bring a distant country to vivid life. 

Summer Kitchens from 2020 explores food and culture from every corner of Ukraine and is Hercules' best book to date - again it really brings her country and its people into your kitchen. For all the talk and footage of civilians in Ukraine's cities staying to fight, of old ladies handing out sunflower seeds to soldiers, and homemade petrol bombs, there must be so many more sitting in their homes worrying about what's coming and trying to do normal things like cook and eat when they can.

It's also worth mentioning Caroline Eden's Black Sea which mixes food with a wider portrait of the region, its culture, and history. This is what people are fighting for and it's the most accessible way I can think of to try and get a picture of what that is. 


  1. My knowledge of Ukraine was limited to the fact that we export a lot of tea to them (now economic stress on our tea industry as well) and secondly that they are third or fourth highest number of tourists coming here. There are some four thousand of them now in limbo here without money or a way to get back home. Many many people have opened their homes and guest houses free of charge to them but it is worrying for them anyway. It is no longer a holiday here. Sad.

  2. Struggling a bit with the world at the moment. Day to day is fine, but if I stop and think about it I cry, and my concentration is rubbish for reading. Given that I'm hardly affected at all by current events I can't even begin to imagine how it feels to be in the literal firing line, or worried about loved ones who are.