Rainbows, babushkas and too much honey

5 Mar


Once again, it’s snowing, and dreams of steaming liquid kept interrupting my homework. Cocoa is too rich, tea gets boring after awhile and contrary to popular belief, I try to limit my coffee intake somewhat. So an internet search revealed a few interesting international brews (one of which being Tibetan butter tea, which I’ll, um, save for another time…). I sifted through and landed on Russian sbiten, mostly because that whole meteor/asteroid thing last week was SO. COOL.

I’m kind of embarrassed by how little I know about Russia, considering that it’s the largest country in the whole world. Mostly my mind goes to what I’ve learned from America media, which is obviously never wrong: Vodka. Snow. Movie villains. Gulag. Stalin. KGB. All that good stuff.

Any culture with churches that could be the "end goal" in Candyland, I am into!

I say, any culture with rainbow churches is awesome! (photo cred: Obscurus Nox)

I really don’t know where I would begin if I was planning a visit to Russia. I’m a city girl, so for vacation, I would probably head to Moscow or St. Petersburg. I also love mountains, though, and the Ural range has everything a nature-lover could want!  Skiing, caving, hiking, ice fishing, rafting and even dog sledding! Seems legit.

After a long day of hiking in high elevations, I can imagine wanting some sbiten. Ah, heat you can drink! I was immediately attracted to this drink above the others because 1) it’s sweet and 2) it has jam and 3) I had all the ingredients on hand (it’s icy outside, y’all!).

Sbiten has been around for seven centuries and comes from the word sbit – to beat or pound – because Russians in the 14th century had to make their own spices with a mortar instead of buying the fancy “pre-ground” stuff from Kroger (thanks for reminding me how soft and spoiled I am, 14th-century Russians!).

The drink was pretty good. Very close to hot mulled cider, although my honey hand was a little heavy and thus, the sbiten was too sweet. Maybe I’ll try it again sometime; it’s simple to make (boil water, or if you’d like, red wine. Add spices, honey and jam. Let simmer awhile. Done!).

dubious, yet glamorous babushka

This dubious, yet glamorous, babushka said she’s had worse sbiten before, so…success!

If you’re in an adventurous mood and have ten minutes to make sbiten, go for it! And while you’re at it, you can read this lovely quote from Lonely Planet that will have your heart yearning for a plane ticket to Asia:

“For centuries the world has wondered what to believe about Russia. The country has been reported variously as a land of unbelievable riches and indescribable poverty, cruel tyrants and great minds, generous hospitality and meddlesome bureaucracy, beautiful ballets and industrial monstrosities, pious faith and unbridled hedonism. These eternal Russian truths coexist in equally diverse landscapes of icy tundra and sun-kissed beaches, dense silver birch and fir forests and deep and mysterious lakes, snow-capped mountains and swaying grasslands. Factor in ancient fortresses, luxurious palaces, swirly spired churches and lost-in-time wooden villages and you’ll begin to see why Russia is simply amazing.”

6 Responses to “Rainbows, babushkas and too much honey”

  1. Nancy Jean March 5, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    Thanks for making me laugh this morning, babushka!

  2. Cara March 5, 2013 at 11:09 pm #

    Great use of your day. 🙂


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