BRAMA, Sep 1, 2004, 11:00 am ET|
Postcard from Nice, or un restaurant de Moscou avec une cuisine Ukrainienne
By Tony Leliw
Photo by Tony Leliw
Soaking up the sun in Nice.
If you scratch a Russian in the south of France, you are more than likely to find a Ukrainian.
The Russians may have taken over the Côte d'Azur this August with their Festival de l'Art Russe in Cannes, which includes nights of ballet and fireworks - but in the neighbouring city of Nice - in the hot kitchen of the Moscou (French for 'Moscow') restaurant in rue de France, Olena from Chernivtsi, is busily preparing Ukrainian borsch for the evening diners.
Varenyky are not on the menu says restaurant boss Luba. However, if Ukrainian cook is willing, it can be arranged.
Two days later we're back at the Moscou and the varenyky are going down a treat - each tasty morsel dispatched on its way with a sip of semi-sweet Georgian Kindzmarauli.
Photo by Tony Leliw
That's my boy - Alex tucks into some of Olena's tasty varenyky.
News soon filters back to the kitchen that our plates are so polished that they don't need the services of a dishwasher. Next up is a free helping of heavenly holubtsi. Cook's happy we liked her varenyky.
By now the restaurant's balalaika player has finished strumming Kalinka and the theme tune to Dr Zhivago. He tries to compete with the Russian satellite channel and seems to be winning.
I ask if he knows any Ukrainian stuff, so he plays Rozprahayte Khloptsi Koni on his guitar and we become instant Slav soul mates.
No one knows how many Ukrainians and fellow Eastern Europeans are living in Nice - but every fifth or sixth face on the High Street looks familiar.
Economic hardship forced Olena to flee Ukraine. First stop was Chicago, working at the Metropole, before deciding to head off for Britain, though she never quite made it.
"I found work here and the weather is warm," she says. "I've been working in this restaurant for two months and my husband has a job in Paris."
She's happy to meet us - despite the special request - varenyky with no kapusta or meat - just potato with onions and pepper - as the kids won't eat them!
Photo by Tony Leliw
Cooking Ukrainian borsch tonight at the Moscou rue de France.
A few months earlier in London in a branch of Pizza Hut I met a Ukrainian schoolteacher turned waitress from Kyiv, who said that in a television interview, President Kuchma had used a derogatory word to describe all women working abroad.
"How else can I feed my kids," she asked. When I told her that presidential hopeful Viktor Yuschenko had a chance in October's elections to change things, she dismissed the very thought.
"Everything's been decided," she answered with tears in her eyes. "They are just going through the motions.
"You have lovely children - I haven't seen mine in two years."
As we left the restaurant with its large centrepiece portrait of Papa Putin, it was pleasing to know that we had found a place that provided by the plateful some of the best Ukrainian food going.
I had thought of going to the beautiful villa in 33 Av des Baumettes, not too far from the restaurant, built in 1876 by a Ukrainian princess, which was then enlarged by an American millionaire and turned into what is now the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Jules Cheret). Would they have served me varenyky? Perhaps not.
But it pained me to know that our gastronomic gain in Nice was Chernivtsi's loss.
And, as to the schoolteacher cum waitress from Kyiv, and her views on the election, let's hope she's proved wrong.
* * * * *
Tony Leliw is a London-based journalist whose articles have appeared in respected publications such as the London Evening Standard and The Times, as well as news services in Ukraine and the U.S.
Feature stories by Mr. Leliw that have been published on Brama include :
Oct 13 05 - From War to Westminster by Stefan Terlezki CBE. Book review by Tony Leliw
Dec 1 04 - Ukrainians color London blue, yellow - and orange
Nov 24 04 - Villanous Viktor un-Vanted in UK
Nov 2 04 - Britain votes for Yushchenko
Oct 11 04 - Polling station coordinator works to simplify constitutional obstacles for voters abroad
Jul 16 04 - 'Madam Hooch' rides her broomstick in from Odesa: Actress Zoë Wanamaker offers a glimpse into her family history
Jun 7 04 - British 'heavyweight' weighs in on Ukraine elections
Mar 22 04 - If you were an oligarch ...
Mar 7 04 - Why you'll never find all the eggs in one basket
Dec 3 03 - On His Majesty's Secret Service
Oct 1 03 - Vilified, slandered and abused for telling the truth about Communism
Jul 30 03 - Malcolm Muggeridge Centenary: the journalist who reported that more than 7 million starved to death in Ukraine
Mar 24 03 - Christian fundamentalism and corruption: a member of the British House of Lords offers her views on the Iraq war and Ukraine
May 27 03 - Voting, for a song
Jan 1 03 - The road from Ukraine to Westminster and back
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