Easter is a big deal in Ukraine. Everyone is washing their sheets and windows and frantically scrubbing everything in sight. I remember women literally performing complicated balancing acts on their windowsills and polishing the windows to high shine (most houses and buildings had those old fashioned wooden window frames that could be fully opened onto the street). When my day came to join the army of window washing womenfolk, which was some time in high school, I donned my shortest pair of shorts, did my hair and reported to duty. The thing is, you want to look NICE while hanging out of your window. You never know who may be passing by and admiring your handiwork and leggywork (Did I just make up a word? You know, for all that balancing that I mentioned earlier). My mom handed me a bucket with vinegar water and a heap of old newspapers and set me to work. Did you know that old newspapers can really make windows shine like diamonds in the sky? You should try it some time. I could not feel my hands for the next few days. Anyway, after all this cleaning and the house being so spotless that you were afraid to touch anything, baking started. My mom makes great paska but was always worried that it was not going to “come out”, meaning a flat deflated blob versus a light and airy golden loaf. There always was a plethora of reasons for it not to “come out” : air too dry, air too moist, oven too hot, oven too cold, flour not good enough, eggs not fresh enough (that lady selling them at the market did look shifty) or the neighbour gave the dough an evil eye and jinxed it. Come to think of it, it is a miracle that it ever came our right! Mama used a great variety of pots of all sizes to bake them in and the prettiest one made it into the Easter basket, along with a smoked piece of kovbasa (smoked sausage), butter, pysanky and krashanky (Easter eggs) to be blessed by the priest at our church. Some people managed to pack most of their fridge into their baskets (I use term baskets loosely here, as those things were more like hampers).
You are probably wondering why a post about pastry features a photo of a jar with stuff in it. My paska is not exactly traditional as I soak my dried fruit in rum for a week prior to baking. I don’t remember there being any alcohol in paskas baked in our small town near Lviv. Also, most people put only raisins in it or no fruit at all. The recipe is coming later this week as I will be baking my paskas on Good Friday, but I wanted to leave you with this adorable little bunny guarding the boozy fruit. The recipe post will be too late for the Catholic Easter, but just on time for the Orthodox one. No matter which one you celebrate, or maybe, you don’t celebrate Easter at all, it is a great excuse to eat something delicious (that is, if you need an excuse).