Sunday, December 17, 2006
I bet that Russian kids hate kasha as much as American children hate broccoli or brussels sprouts. Kasha is one of those foods that parents force on kids. I grew up hearing that you must eat a lot of kasha to be healthy and strong. Even now, when I have trouble opening a jar or something, my mom shakes her head and says that I haven't eaten enough kasha. Watery, bland kasha served in Soviet cafeterias also has something to do with the revulsion some people feel toward porridge.
Me, I've always liked kasha, especially oatmeal, cream of wheat and rice. Oatmeal and cream of wheat are self-explanatory; rice kasha is perhaps the Russian equivalent of rice pudding. Milk and rice are cooked together until the rice absorbs most of the milk; this kasha is eaten with a little butter and sugar. Undoubtedly I like kasha because my mom and grandmother made it well, with milk. Occasionally my mom will ask me, who is nearly American, why Americans do this or that. One of her more frequent questions is why do Americans make their hot cereal with water instead of milk? I don't know, Americans, why do you? Hot cereal made with milk is creamy comfort food; made with water, it's dour diet food. I confess that American rice pudding eaten cold is, too, a mystery. Why eat cold milky rice when it tastes so much better hot?
I don't eat kasha very often anymore--I hardly need to grow big and strong at this point. But every once in a while I get a craving for it. Here's a recipe for oatmeal, made mama's way.
Gerkylesovaia Kasha (Oatmeal)
Bring a cup of milk to a slow boil using medium-low heat. Add a pinch of salt and sugar, then slowly add 1/2 cup of oatmeal (rolled oats; not instant). Reduce the heat to low, and let the oatmeal simmer 10-15 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes. If the oatmeal is too thick, add a splash of milk. Eat with a little butter and a handful of dried fruit of your choice--I like cranberries and cherries.