Valya Dudycz Lupescu

Writer, fueled by coffee

Finally Spring

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Some months are so full they rush by in a blur. April 2013 was like that. After ICFA, there was a Spring roadtrip, followed by C2E2 and a wonderful meeting (resulting in an exciting announcement to be made in the near future). In between, there were family obligations, book club and school visits, beloved dead to be remembered, and deadlines to be met.

Then came May and finally Spring. Warm weather arrived, and with it the joy of open windows and fresh breezes that make a morning cup of coffee taste even better.

Yesterday was Ukrainian Easter (celebrated according to the Julian calendar).  We began our day with the traditional breakfast of eggs, rich egg bread, beets mixed with horseradish, “lamb” butter, cheese, ham and sausage. All of it was blessed in baskets adorned with embroidery on the afternoon before in the church parking lot. I love this tradition, probably because it’s tied to food, and the sharing of meals is so important to me and my family.

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I remember our first Spring in Frankfurt, Germany, in 2003. I was able to find a small Ukrainian community that had services out of a Roman Catholic church. That year we blessed our basket in the courtyard alongside Ukrainians born in Germany and those recently from Ukraine. Our baskets were nearly the same, adorned with varying styles of Ukrainian embroidery.

Looking around, that was my first experience of how important community must have been for my grandparents transplanted to Chicago from Ukraine after WWII.  There is comfort is celebrating beloved traditions, even on foreign soil with people you do not know.

Food also helps us to connect–an ocean between us, on different land, we can still eat the same kind of foods, the same basic recipes, passed down from grandparents to parents to children and on and on.

Recipes are a lot like stories: they can be carried and shared; they can be written down or remembered; they vary from region to region, incorporating the influence of the land and people around them. Recipes also have the ability to transcend time and space, to connect us to those who have gone and to those who are yet to come. Like stories, they’re a little bit of magic. They provide us with opportunities to remember and reconnect.

Over the last decade, I have been slowly building up my recipes. I’m not very organized and I’ve never scrapbooked, but this thing I have somehow kept up. I don’t usually print them out, choosing instead to write each recipe on a card, adding notes, crossing things out as I adapt a dish.

It’s always been important to me. My box of recipes is one of the few things that has travelled around the world with me. Maybe it’s because I see it as a sister activity to writing and storytelling? Maybe it’s because I hope that someday those recipes will provide my children and grandchildren with a window into my life–the treasured meals I have been able to share with them and other people I hold dear. Maybe it’s because writing a recipe down feels like preserving a little of the magic.

If you have ever shared a meal with me, I thank you.

If you’ve ever given me a recipe, rest assured that it is treasured.

If you’d like to share a recipe, I would be honored to add it to my collection. 

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Author: Valya

Valya Dudycz Lupescu is the author of THE SILENCE OF TREES and STICKS & BONES, as well as the founding editor of CONCLAVE: A Journal of Character. Born and raised in Chicago, Valya received her degree in English at DePaul University and her MFA in Writing as part of the inaugural class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Since receiving her MFA, Valya has worked as a college professor, obituary writer, content manager, internal communications specialist, co-producer of an independent feature film, and Goth cocktail waitress.

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