I think the 40 days before Russian Easter (which will be on 1 May this year) are my favorite period of time in this country. Winter is finally on its last legs and it gets lighter, warmer and greener again. But what’s maybe even better: it’s the time of “пост” or Russian Lent.
The principle of Lent in the orthodox church is quite similar to Lent in Belgium or other catholic countries: it’s a period of fasting, in which it’s not allowed to eat certain foods. In Belgium there are hardly any people left who still participate in Lent for religious reasons. Most people who still do it (there aren’t many) are rather motivated to set themselves a challenge, to care better for their health or to reduce their ecological footprint, hence the very popular campaign “Days without meat” (which was in fact what triggered me to become a vegetarian!).
In Russia, however, Lent is still mostly religiously inspired. And it’s a lot stricter too. Whereas in catholicism, there are – as far as I know – no clear rules anymore (some people don’t drink alcohol, some people don’t eat meat, some no candy). In the orthodox church, fasting means: no meat, no fish, no dairy products, no eggs, no oil and no alcohol. On some days, even total fast is kept.
As there are still many more people practicing their faith here, Lent is a much bigger deal here too. Many restaurants have a special “Lenten menu”, all dishes of which are completely vegetarian and often even vegan! Having such a hard time trying to find veggie options all the rest of the year (even more now that I’m pregnant and salads and soft cheeses are out of the picture too) you can imagine how thrilled I am about this!
And that’s not all; I even spotted some veggie products in the supermarket the other day. They had a special “Lenten shelf” with different kinds of Alpro soy milk (our Belgian pride!), vegan sauces and dressings and vegan sausages. I tried two of the latter. One of them didn’t exactly turn out to be a sausage (although it looked like it) but some kind of paté (паштет ). I used it to make a veggie variant of the popular Belgian martino sandwich:
The other sausages were similar to hot dog sausages and so I used them for a simple but delicious dish we got introduced to by Chilean friends: completos:
Too bad I missed the beginning of Lent as I was in Belgium and I’ll miss the end as we’ll be in Italy. But I’m definitely already looking forward to next year!