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We love our kitchen and what comes out of it

We love our kitchen and what comes out of it


Food is the source of happiness in any Russian household. Eating a lot and eating often is key to a healthy social life and to keeping the vodka down. My childhood was stuffed with blinis, borscht, homemade dumplings and perogies. My entire family used to get together and create food from scratch every weekend. After moving to Canada, we have integrated old traditions into a new life, maintaining the food we make as an important contributor to our day to day joy.

In the recent years we've enforced a delicious pre-new years tradition. New Years is THE holiday for Russian people. During the 74 year communistic rein, most holidays were illegal since they had religion connotations, so the Russians weren't left with much choice. Our family gets together with friends and makes buckets of Russian meat dumplings (pilmeni) that we eat in the morning of the new year. Nom Nom Nom…helps with the aches as well.

It's not just the kind of food you cook but where you cook it. We have three kitchens. There's the regular kitchen, the banya kitchen and the outdoor kitchen. Yes we have a fully equipped kitchen in our backyard, compliments of my father. His favorites to make there are plov (an Uzbek risotto-esque dish), as well as turkish coffee and shashlik. It's great for summertime barbecues or when you really don't feel like cleaning up…that may explain our racoon problem.

My favorite kitchen is the banya kitchen. It's te smallest of the three but there's something intrinsically homey about it. Perhaps I've been swayed since lately all the best meals have been coming out of it. Both my parents cook (Victor and Valentina, owners of  South Western Bathhouse). They have very different styles that together work to the food's greatest advantage. They both make the kind of feel-good food you remember well into your next life time; when eating Russian meals somewhere else I find myself always comparing everything to my parents' cooking.

Victor: Chef Profile

Cooking is serious business. Victor is rarely satisfied with a dish, often striving to perfect it over the course of several years. Chibureki are his specialty; when we last went to Russia, we could not find ones better than his. He has a tendency of fondly remembering some far-off dish from his childhood and then aiming to duplicate it. I often question the legitimacy of these dreamy recollections when my father is unhappy with his results, as anything he cooks always tastes fantastic to me. His latest heartache has been to perfect plov and I suspect that it's the main reason he built our outdoor kitchen (it's a messy dish to be making everyday…mother was starting to grow impatient with the cleanup).

Valentina: Chef Profile

My mother's cooking is straight from the soul. Unlike my dad, she doesn't stick to Russian, Uzbek, Georgian and Abkhazian cuisine; she loves to branch out into the rest of the world. Italian pastas and seafood, French sauces and soups, Greek bakes. She sometimes gets it wrong but never wrong enough to not still be delicious. Her specialties for the banya are shuba, holodets, honey layer cake and borscht. Her borscht is the best I've ever had…besides mine (shhhhh). When I was in university, coming home to my mom's cooking was the ideal de-stresser. Even when I lived on campus I never signed up for a meal card as I already had the best one; my mom.

So now you know. Every time you eat at the South Western Bathhouse you are sharing part of my family's history, part of our life joy and part of our passion. Now go stare at the menu and be seduced!



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