Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Making Butter on the Eastern Border

Making butter on the eastern border with Ukraine and Belorussia. Yes, I spent a lot of time bumping around (as a sociologist: assisting in face to face interviews and being a participant/observer) on the eastern border; and I loved it. We stayed often with a great aunt and uncle. They lived in a hut: two large rooms divided by a huge ceramic wood burning stove which was the only source of heat and only means for cooking. There was no running water, no sink, no toilet. There was electricity, a light bulb hung down in the kitchen room and in the dining/living/bedroom also one light hung down over a table. In that room, I ate, drank and slept and participated a wake and funeral party all in the same room, at different times of course. It was such a humbling experience and yet so humanly profound. When you may wonder? 2008 how is that for 21century life!
Ok, I am supposed to be talking about making butter. The aunt and uncle had a small farm with one cow. There farm was near the eastern border where the Ukraine and Belorussia come together divided by the Bug River. They used to call this area Poland as it stretched all the way to Lvov. It was a multicultural and multi-religious local community. I stress local as that was the most often given word when asked "who are you" to the local population which before the war was a mix of Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Jews.
In a nearby town, they claimed three cultures and lived at peace until the war came and divided people to gain advantages... military foothold.
Today, most people are Poles but they remember those times like it was yesterday. The life there was and still is simple. Some might see it as empty of things, lacking in technology, missing out on bigger things. Probably for the young people, yes. They don't know what they are losing. I was there in 2011 and saw the older people still doing what the great aunt and uncle did a few years ago. Everyday they get up, feed the chickens and milk the cow, even twice a day. From the milk, they make/made cream, sour cream, butter and cheese. All those food items produced and prepared by the aunt and uncle tasted like they were made in heaven, even though I noticed (being an American and from the city) the containers for them were washed out in well water and hung to dry on dried twigs stuck in the ground behind the hut. This was done everyday and in the same way. There was a well out front and I washed up many dishes there.
I tried using the wooden butter churn, it was heavy and had years of wear on it. It was work. I was surprised how much effort it took and even more surprised that the great aunt of 80 years could do it with ease and pleasure. She would make homemade cheese pirogi as big as the palm of your hand, boil them and then serve them with the homemade sour cream and butter. The butter was light in color and rich in flavor.
The bread also was a slice of heaven, thick and full of nutrition. I miss that food, good food, hearty and cooked to satisfy a big hunger, served with love and faith and Thanks to the Lord for providing.

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