Maria Kalenska is a third generation Odessite, currently living in Berlin. Having made a career in the corporate world, she has now exchanged her business suit for a kitchen apron. Maria currently writes for gastronomic and travel publications, along with organising culinary master classes and exclusive enogastronomic tours and pop-up dinners.
Her heart forever belongs to Odessa, but in London she has an important mission – to promote Ukrainian and Odessa cuisine!
Food in Odessa has always been treated as a commodity.
Until now, some old-timers traditionally may spend hours picking over a pile of dill examining, sniffing, placing back but picking another one – and so, until the sun starts to go down, and the time comes to 3 p.m. – time for the market “Privoz” to close.
Everything purchased must be washed, dried, chopped, poured, mixed, stewed, and eaten. Right away. Tomorrow, you have to go to the market again, since big families require a lot of food.
There is no need to look for a slender gastronomic logic in the Odessa approach to eating – you will get confused and lost. And now, raspberries, for example, and that smell tickles your nose.
In Odessa they say – “it smells like mad”.
Smells not like the summer, not like ripeness, not like the sun. But like mad.
It is difficult to understand; you should feel it through the salty summer heat, through waves that look like a large piece of greenish “Soviet” marmalade, through a back burnt in the sun, smeared with sour cream, through thick August evenings. But in Odessa, raspberry smells like mad.
Raspberry should be eaten just like that, without anything. In some cases, you shouldn’t even wash berries because this “mad smell” disappears instantly; raspberry can be treated like an old maid – kinda okay to take, but still, you have a choice.
Take raspberry as a vitamin, as a medicine. In handfuls, with fingers, dirtying lips. Then you can try with ice cream. With sour cream or “heavy cream”.
And then, when you start distinguishing raspberry varieties, you can cook Odessa’s “five-minute jam”. Two handfuls of raspberries and a handful of sugar, a generous pinch of spices for gingerbread and mulled wine –wintertime leftovers found on the shelf, cooking on low heat, for five minutes, and now we have a quick jam for breakfast or tea.
Raspberry is rubbed with sugar and frozen, is stewed for jam, lots of jam.
As winter is coming, and city goes under snow, transport jams, people leave their cars right on the roadway and get home on foot, and, coming home or to the nearest house, they sit down at the table. There they discover the raspberry jam – boiled three times for 2 hours or “five minutes” kind and someone standing next to the table says: enjoy the raspberry, still smelling like mad.