Feast or Famine

Feast or Famine

March 17, 2010

Making the Chapter:

To hide the deaths of many millions of people for fifty years was quite an achievement. More justly, it was an appalling accomplishment which was only possible in a regime such as Communism, and, I should add, with the connivance of governments that choose to turn a blind eye.  But it happened in Ukraine and it is called the Holodomor.

Artists were so terrorised by the regime that it’s believed that only one painted image of the Holodomor exists. Painted by one of Ukraine’s most famous artists, the small canvas hangs in the Musee National d’Art Moderne in Paris. As an example of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, the Holodomor is one of the most shocking examples.

In Feast or Famine I visit a family of bread connoisseurs, as they establish a bakery in one of Kyiv’s swankier shopping malls, to learn all about this staple food and its cultural (and life-giving) importance in Ukraine.

Excerpt:

Polina entered the small space clutching a couple of bags of loaves. Her narrow face was accentuated by her large and somber eyes that were seemingly without pupils.

“Here we go, let’s taste!” she said. Each day she was buying bread from nearby competitors for her father to try. He tore open one of the white loaves and buried his nose in its doughy cleavage.

“Additives!” He exclaimed. “Bread is more important than wine, and it appeals to the senses in the same way. Our wheat produces a hay yellow crumb, and is long in the mouth and rich. It has an intense scent of herbs and a slight acidity. Often the nose has notes of fennel and other herbs. You know, it’s particularly well suited to sourdough baking methods, where small differences in the wheat do not affect the end result, but this has been doctored, probably to increase shelf life.”

He frowned and broke off some crumbs, and examined them like a jeweller might inspect diamonds.


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