Reading Anna Voloshyna’s new cookbook Budmo! is like sitting down at a shared table generously crowded with delicious dishes, where every bite offers something new: a story, a memory, a new flavour or texture.
Born and raised in Ukraine, Voloshyna now lives in San Francisco, where she continues to spread the word about the culture, food and current situation of her homeland, as a blogger, photographer, cooking teacher and host of pop-up events. In Budo! Recipes from a Ukrainian Kitchen, she shares the food she grew up with, from vibrant soups to traditional dumplings and nostalgic baking – like vyshyvanka bars, a simple slice named after a traditional Ukrainian shirt because the tops of the bars are said to resemble the pattern on the shirt.
This is one of those books where reading a recipe is a joy in itself, even if you don’t plan on making it, because of the tales and memories sprinkled throughout. Take garlic pampushky (dinner rolls) – even if you aren’t a breadmaker, you’ll likely smile at the story attached to it: “Pampushky and borscht are the most classic Ukrainian food combination, dating back hundreds of years. Ukrainians even have a saying about it: If a woman cooks borscht for a man, it means she likes him. If she serves the borscht with garlic pampushky, she is in love.”
The title, too, has a story: “I titled this cookbook Budmo, which means ‘let us be’ – the English equivalent of ‘cheers’ – because it is my favourite Ukrainian word and signals a celebration. Whenever I hear it, I know there will be delicious food, blazing drinks, and countless toasts. This word is fierce and vigorous – a perfect embodiment of Eastern European cuisine,” she writes in the introduction.
For those who don’t know much about Ukrainian food, the introduction and the My Pantry section that follows serve as a handy primer on the complicated historical influences and key ingredients of the food of the region. It’s also a lovely window into Voloshyna’s childhood, and the role food plays in so many of her memories.
The recipes range from simple chopped salads, soups, pickles and drinks to hearty meat dishes, breads and dumplings, and desserts.
It’s a lovely book (and we’re not the only ones who think so – the Smithsonian Magazine named it one of the Ten Best Books About Food of 2022). Here’s a sample of what’s between the covers:
“Crispy zucchini topped with garlicky sour cream has always been my favourite side dish for everything cooked on the grill,” Voloshyna writes. “It reminds me of the early spring days when my mom and I would get the first tiny zucchini from the bazaar, fry them, and pack them for the trip to our annual family outing where we would feast on shashlik (Eastern European–style grilled meat). It would always be somewhere close to the water so my grandpas could fish and we kids could swim. Here in California, I can buy zucchini all year round, but until this day, this dish brings back memories of a warm spring breeze and the intoxicating scent of meat cooking over a live fire.”
“Ukrainians call this cold borscht kholodnyk (kholod means “cold” in both Ukrainian and Russian). It is incredibly refreshing, and we eat it during the blazing-hot Ukrainian days of summer. When the weather is simply unbearable, eating a bowl of this soup makes you feel invigorated again.”
Garlic pampushky (dinner rolls)
“I’m a big believer that garlic makes everything taste better. This bread is living proof of my theory. When served plain, which actually never happens in Ukraine, pampushky are just regular boring dinner rolls. But a few cloves of minced garlic mixed with oil and fresh dill transform them into a delightful Ukrainian treat called pampushky z chasnykom.”
“Despite being possibly the simplest of all Slavic pastries, these bars are unbelievably satisfying. In Ukraine, we call this sweet vyshyvanka, after our traditional embroidered shirt because the top resembles the pattern on the shirt. It was the first baked dessert I ever made as a kid, and I have loved it dearly ever since. “
“Imagine the largest, most decadent éclair you can conjure, and that’s what karpatka cake is. It is like a rich cloud of milky frosting trapped between two layers of pâte à choux. (The name translates to Carpathian cake, so-called because the sugar-dusted craggy-topped pastry recalls the snow-capped peaks of the Carpathian Mountains.) It can also be a dangerous dessert because once you’ve tasted it, it’s difficult not to eat the rest of the cake in one sitting.”
Image from Budmo! Recipes from a Ukrainian Kitchen by Anna Voloshyna (Rizzoli, HB$85).