Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Rediscovering Pączki

When the Soviet Union collapsed and small businesses started blossoming in post-Soviet Russia, a private bakery opened near my parents' house. Every day when coming back from school I could smell the scent of fresh bread, one of the most seductive scents in the world. I saved my pocket money to buy a delicacy called “ponchik” (пончик, a type of doughnut) there. Since then the word “ponchik” has become a synonym for ingenious joy and delight for me.

A few days ago, my husband spotted an advertisement in a local Canadian newspaper inviting everybody to join in a Pączki's Day. Many European (and particularly Eastern European) bakeries are celebrating Pączki's Day this Tuesday by offering a good choice of doughnuts, or pączki. It turned out that the word for this kind of doughnuts came to Russian from the Polish. The polish letter “ą” sounds like a nasal [on], so pączki is nothing other than my favourite ponchiki!



Russians don't celebrate Pączki Day (Fat Thursday), but we eat pancakes (блины, bliny) throughout the week, instead. This Sunday is Maslenitsa (масленица), when many people enjoy eating an unlimited amount of pancakes with various jams, sour cream, caviar and much more. There are many various recipes for bliny, but what makes Russian (and Ukrainian) bliny different is that they are normally bigger, thinner and made without yeast.

Bon appetite all, who have Pączki's Day or Maslenitsa this week!

Blini
Photo by Andrei Zmievski

Bliny
Ingredients:
  • Flour - 1 cup
  • Milk - 3 cups
  • Baking soda - 1/2 ts
  • Sunflower oil - 2 tbs
  • Eggs - 2
  • Salt and sugar to taste.

Mix eggs with 3 cups of milk. Add salt and flour and mix thoroughly. Pour vegetable oil into a saucer. Heat the pan. Grease it. Pour thin layer of batter evenly. Cook until light brown, about 2 minutes, flip on the other side with a thin knife and cook another 30 sec. Serve with butter, sour cream, caviar or jam. Enjoy.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hard Worker

Morphemes are the parts that form words. For example, in the word “disagreeable” there are three morphemes: the prefix dis-, the root -agree-, and the suffix -able. Each morpheme has its meaning and contributes it to the entire meaning of the word on the whole. In Russian, it works more or less the same way. However Russian also has a special morpheme, the ending (flexia), that adds the specific grammatical meaning to a word and links words together. These ever-changing endings cause many troubles to students, yet it is amazing what a beautiful system endings form and what a great job these small particles do.

An ending carries grammatical information about a word. If it is a noun, ending shows:
  • whether it is a single object or represents many similar objects (singular or plural);
  • 2) if it is a subject of the sentence (Nominative case);
  • 3) the relations the noun to other words, where it is not the main subject of the sentence.
Sometimes, a noun's ending indicates its gender, but you always should double check it with your dictionary.

For adjectives, ending links an adjective to a corresponding noun by putting an adjective into the same number, case and gender.

A verb's ending shows if the action described in the sentence takes place in the past or present/future, if a speaker is talking about himself/herself, you, or another person, and also if the action is real or the speaker just expresses his or her will or wish. All these things are shown with just two or three letters!

Endings link words together into one sentence, helping you to understand the relations between those words. Because endings bind words unambiguously, Russian has flexible (almost free) word order. In English, you have to put words in a proper order to form an intelligible sentence. In Russian, the word order is not that strict because endings allow you to understand how words are interconnected.

The ending is normally the last morpheme in a word, but it is the very heart of the Russian grammar system. Most morphemes carry only verbal meaning (like dis- for negation or -able for capability), while endings ensure narration and code grammatical information about words.

You might think “Well, that's nice. But how am I supposed to memorize all these endings and start speaking Russian?”. Well, my answer is, do just like all Russians do – use Russian in your everyday life. There's no way to learn the complicated (yet logical) system of Russian flexias other than just speaking.

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Photo by Ruby Gold