Thursday, November 1, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Last night, we celebrated Halloween with our friends Phil, Jani, Thomas, and Sybil. While Halloween is infiltrating the dance club scene for young adults in L'viv, it has not penetrated the official 100+ Ukrainian holidays (of course, today is a holiday). We decided to introduce our traditions to Ukraine, including the sights, smells, and tastes of the season.

Erik worked with the boys to design and carve a jack- o'-lantern. Jani had reserved a pumpkin at the market (you generally buy pre-sliced pieces of pumpkin rather than a whole one). It was a great carving pumpkin - round and squat, with just the right thickness in the walls to make a sturdy pumpkin but not make carving too difficult. Thomas and Carter made a nice, scary, asymmetric design on the pumpkin, helped scoop out the seeds, and watched Erik work with the knife.

Lea, Jani, and Sybil cooked Halloween foods. The search for ingredients required some compromises - there are no caramels to make caramel apples, so the sugary coating had to be made by hand. But, we used more fresh goods which made our usual Halloween fare even better. The Bistak family traditional spinach soup was excellent this year, in large part due to fresh spinach, nice thick Ukrainian bacon, and whole milk (at home, we tend to do a healthier version and use frozen spinach with skim milk and lean bacon). Accompanied by Jani's fresh-baked bread and roasted pumpkin seeds, it was a perfect meal for a cold, autumn day. Sybil and Jani made a fantastic pumpkin pie for dessert; the crust was delicate and buttery and the filling (Lea's dad's recipe) was creamy and full-flavored. When we first saw that the pie had a crusty top, we were skeptical (thinking it would not cook properly since we have never seen a pumpkin pie with a top). But, we were quite wrong - it was perfectly baked and just fantastic! We'll have to add a top to our pumpkin pies back in the US!

After dinner, the boys played "ghost" with a sheet, although they did not formally dress up in any costumes. They had a great time being scary and had a fun Halloween.

[Some photos courtesy of Phil and Jani]

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