ukraine tales: 3 posts

Roses and Honey

Poltava, in central Ukraine, is famous for its honey. Every year the city and its environs host fairs celebrating honey in all its forms, and whenever I visit my grandmother, who is a Poltava native, I enjoy this sweet treat in gingerbreads, cakes, drinks and even savory dishes. One of the most beloved local pairings is first-of-the-season honey drizzled over cucumbers.

On a recent visit, I discovered yet another way to eat honey – infused with roses. It was heaven. So, for my recent FT column, The Fragrance of Honey and Roses, I’ve decided to recreate this combination and to find fragrances that are build around the rose-honey accord.

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Lilac Chronicles

When Asya, my great-grandmother, traveled, she always came back with a sapling wrapped in damp newspapers. Asya’s doctor prescribed for her mineral water treatments for her chronic kidney ailment, and she often went away to take cure. But I rather think that she was on a mission to collect as many flowering plants as possible. Once back, her suitcases thrown on the bench in the yard, she went into the garden–still in her heels and hat–and planted the drooping seedlings. Some wilted, but many took root, filling the air with their fragrance–roses, carnations, lilies, jasmine.

Asya’s favorite plant was lilac. She brought them from every trip, from every visit to a greenhouse or a flower market. When I can’t fall asleep at night, I often imagine the path into Asya’s garden flanked by two tall lilac trees that bend towards each other. I count the lilac varieties and try to remember their scent, but usually slumber overtakes me before I get past the tenth bush.

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Pysanka Easter Egg Museum in Kolomyia, Ukraine

Decorating eggs is an ancient tradition, still alive in many countries, from Iran to Greece, but in Ukraine it becomes an art form–and a national obsession. Pysanka, as the decorated egg is called, from the word “pysaty”, “to write,” is  one of the most important traditional arts in Ukraine. Today pysanka (plural is pysanky) is prepared around Easter, although decorated eggs were also used to be given as birthday gifts and wedding presents. Each region has its own set of symbols, colors and patterns, while each master adds their own signature touch.

It’s not surprising then that Ukraine should have a museum dedicated to the pysanky. The Pysanka Museum in the western Ukrainian city of Kolomyia is one of the most fascinating museums I’ve visited. The museum was a labor of love of the local community that collected the best examples of its pysanka masters and preserved them in the Kolomyia church of the Annunciation. In 2000, the museum was formally opened, allowing for preservation of the fragile masterpieces, as well as for hosting workshops and lectures. Walking through its halls filled with more than 1000 pysanky is a mind-blowing experience. It’s hard to believe that such intricate designs are made by human hands.

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  • delia jean in Scent Diary : In Search of Lost Time: as i read these descriptions, i kept wanting to click a “like” button. thank you June 18, 2019 at 12:09pm

  • Muriel in Scent Diary : In Search of Lost Time: It’s a bit strange, but I have some sharp olfactory memories of my grand-parents’s (and even great-grand-father’s) houses, but not so much of my own childhood house… On my father’s… June 18, 2019 at 8:09am

  • Tami in Scent Diary : In Search of Lost Time: Hi, Mel — I love Somm, too! I can’t imagine all the work that goes into earning your master somm credential. And not to mention, expensive! Wow! Thanks for the… June 18, 2019 at 12:48am

  • Mel Bourdeaux in Scent Diary : In Search of Lost Time: Your observation about wine-tasting reminds me of the documentary Somm which documents the hardcore path candidates take for the ultimate sommelier accreditation, whatever that is. In any event, one guy… June 17, 2019 at 9:42pm

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