Cambrian: Opinion

Rozhdestvon Khristovym! Gud Jul & Froliche Weihnachten!

Stroganoff and potatoes aboard the M.S. Litminov.
Stroganoff and potatoes aboard the M.S. Litminov.

Rozhdestvon Khristovym! Gud Jul, Froliche Weihnachten, Frohe Feiertage, Glaedelig Jul, Prettige Kerstdagen, and Lystig Jul! Kalos Christou Yenna, and Sreten bosich.

Feliz Navidad, Boas Festas, Buon Natali, and Joyeux Noel! Mele Kelikimaka, Hari Natal, Maligayang Pasco and Geseende Kersfees! Sung Tan Chuk Ha, and Nollaig Shona Dhuit!

Beannachtaí na Féile, Meilleurs Voeux, Felices Fiestas, and Frohe Festagge!

Over the years of collecting these seasonal greetings, I am delighted that I had my Russian “Merry Christmas” to place at the beginning of the first paragraph. Friends and acquaintances are still asking for details about my travel there last October during the early transition from autumn to winter.

It was already getting cold there, so I have since watched the Tribune’s daily listing for temperatures as reference. When we got hit with our cold snap last weekend, I got smart on my new phone and verbally asked Google for the data in Cambria, CA, and got an immediate response from a tiny little voice that it was 4 degrees C here, and also in Moscow. St. Petersburg was at 1 degree C, but has since dropped to -4 degrees Celsius, (with the coldest yet to come.) Our local guide there described the weather as “two seasons: July and winter,” so I promise not to whine that it is no longer surfing time at 70 degrees Fahrenheit here in our lovely village.

Instead I am enjoying the sights of the bright lights, the sounds of happy locals and visitors and the tastes which friends have found to be unique. There were raves for Erica’s pumpkin fudge at Sweet Offerings, root beer float cookies at Red Moose Cookies, and Tina’s dessert of the month at Tea Cozy — Figgy Pudding, as in the lyrics to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” (Sometimes that is spelled "figgie.") And golden figs are what I enjoyed in the specialty gelato at Harmony Café, available on a menu which changes frequently.

While touring St. Petersburg, we saw the KGB headquarters, described by the same humorous guide as having “a view visible from even the basement all the way to Siberia.” In an interesting juxtaposition, we saw the mansion owned by the Baron and Count Stroganoff, whose chef originally devised the specialty dish featured in his home.

On our boat we enjoyed it as an entrée of minced meat rather than large slices, within a circlet of mashed potatoes piped around it, instead of atop the familiar buttered egg noodles.

Beef Stroganoff

  • 5 oz. filet mignon per person
  • 1 small onion, minced, per person
  • 1/3 cup sauce per person


  • 2 tblsp. flour
  • 3 tblsp. tomato paste
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • Fresh parsley and dill, minced

“Pound a lump of fillet beef with a mallet until thin and cut into strips 2-2.5 inches long and 1/2 inch thick. Then cut them crosswise into bits 1/4-1/2 inch thick, add salt and pepper, and sauté stirring occasionally. Add minced onions and continue to sauté until ready.

“Make a roux of the flour with tomato paste, stir into the pan and continue to fry. Then pour in sour cream, season it, then add the garlic, parsley and dill. Stir, bring to a boil, and serve hot.” (From Russian Cuisine, 2000.)

Between our salad and soup courses, we were served a hot dish of sautéed julienned mushrooms and onions, which was announced as “Mushroom Salad” but which was immersed in sour cream thickened with a buttery roux. The delicious fresh tomato half was topped with grated cheddar cheese mixed what was later identified as mayonnaise. Oh, my.

No wonder Catherine the Great entered Russia to marry the czar heir-apparent as a “15-year-old German sylph-like maiden, and grew into a buxom RUSSIAN WOMAN,” as evidenced by the elaborate dresses on display in the Kremlim museum (emphasis again placed by our guide).

Peace, love, hope and joy to you this Christmas from the Culinary Corner!