Ukrainian cookbook shares tradition

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December 4, 2014 9:09 AM

The Ukrainian baba's Christmas Eve supper. - Photo Submitted

Naden Hewko is a Ukrainian baba (grandmother), and she spends a lot of time cooking.

Her first book, Secrets of a Ukrainian Baba, shared stories of Ukrainian history, culture and living. It also offered insight into the many dishes that Ukrainians enjoy all year long; however, it didn’t teach people how to make those meals themselves. While her readers enjoyed the stories she told, they wanted to know exactly how to bring those traditional meals from the page to the kitchen.

But with her latest book, Secrets from the Ukrainian Baba’s Kitchen, she fixes that problem; it elaborates on traditional food eaten in the country with not only recipes, but more stories related to seasonal traditions that trace back for ages.

“The stories and the recipes cover the seasons,” said Hewko. “It explains life in those olden days. You can only put so much in a book because it can only be so big.” But with her book coming in at 172 pages and containing just under 200 recipes, it should keep any cooking enthusiast busy for quite some time.

“This is made up of recipes that people of Ukrainian heritage make all the time,” said Hewko. “And I’ve divided my book into sections according to the year.”

While there are many traditions outlined in the book, it all starts with the holiday on everyone’s minds at this time of year: Christmas.

“Christmas Eve is considered the most special time, because we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus,” said Hewko.

“And so we have a special meal, called Holy Eve Supper.”

The Christmas feast is a meatless 12-dish meal that starts with a bowl of boiled wheat called kutya, flavoured with poppy seeds and honey. Others in the meal include beet soup with bread, baked fish, cabbage rolls, perogies and mushrooms in sauce.

The book then follows into the months of spring and tells shares stories and recipes of the tradition. To this day, said Hewko, some Ukrainians prepare a basket of food at Easter time (baked ham, sausage, cottage cheese and Easter eggs) to be blessed at a church.

That’s just one bite of information contained within Secrets from the Ukrainian Baba’s Kitchen on traditions drawn from the eastern European country. And even by writing the book, Hewko said she’s carrying on an important tradition, too.

“It’s what my mother did – handed these recipes down generation through generation,” she said, and now she can too, if not by tradition alone, then at the request of her close family.

“My granddaughters love the Ukrainian food,” said Hewko. “And they said, ‘Baba ... you should put them in a book for us, because we want to have those recipes.’”

If interested in getting a book for yourself, contact Naden Hewko at 306-753-3155 or by email at nhewko@ sasktel.net.

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