Belarusian cuisine has long been intertwined with the cuisine of Jews living in our country. Traditionally, the vast majority of the tenants of the urban and village inns were Jews, and it was through them that many new ingredients penetrated into Belarus, as well as new cooking methods, such as the technology for cooking grated potato dishes in the middle of the 19th century. But this was not “one-way traffic” at all – in the same way, Jews borrowed a lot from the cuisine of the local people – Belarusians, Lithuanians, Poles. Some of these borrowed dishes, such as knishes or kishke, at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries have become very popular overseas, not only among Jewish immigrants, but also among all Americans.
In Kuhmistr restaurant, we are trying to pay tribute to this centuries-old peaceful cultural interaction, on which both sides have benefited. One can’t say unambiguously about some dishes from our menu – whether they are Belarusian or Jewish. You can try a sandwich with a herring forshmak (grated herring snack) – trading in herring has been concentrated for centuries in the hands of Jews, and they cooked it best of all. “Krupnik” soup, which for many centuries was the main soup on the menu of both Belarusians and Jews – we cook it with beef, but at the request of a specific guest we can make a vegetarian option. And even the seemingly banal draniki (grated potato fritters) – can be regarded famous Jewish “Bulba latkes” – and the name of this dish, was borrowed into Yiddish from Belarusian language. Some people also claim that the secret of the famous American “cheese cake” was taken by our local Jews to the US some 130-140 years ago.
Sometimes, on major Jewish holidays, we organize mini-festivals of such Belarusian-Jewish dishes. And our favorite and often-played musical instrument — cymbals (also called dulcimer) — was also brought to Belarus by Jewish musicians – klezmers. In the romantic poem by Adam Mickiewicz, “Pan Tadeusz,” one of the main characters, Yankel, plays masterfully on cymbals. It seems to us that our wonderful cymbalists have learned to play no worse.
Unfortunately, there are no truly Jewish restaurants in Minsk. In fact, not at all. We cannot fully replace them, but we are always ready to smile and say “Shalom!” to our Jewish guests. And to introduce them to our cuisine, which is hard to imagine without Jewish influence. Smachna estsi – Bon appetit – Be Teyavon!