When Raisa Stone first began to write, the story she wanted to tell wasn't exactly a cookbook, but part "memoir, cultural history and cuisine of Ukraine's indigenous people."
This inextricable bond between culture, history and food is on display in Baba's Kitchen: Ukrainian Soul Food.
Stone says she's always felt connected to her Ukrainian roots, specifically through cooking the traditional recipes of her parent's homeland. In the Stone home, learning to cook was more about connecting to culture than it was anything else. Making pysanka or other traditional dishes was an opportunity to learn about her maternal grandmother's life in Ukraine in addition to learning about cooking.
With stories told directly to her from Stalinist and Holocaust survivors, Stone creates a narrative cookbook told from the perspective of the wry, fictional character Baba, who Stone describes as "a composite of these invincible souls."
Stone, a first generation Canadian, says her father fled Ukraine.
"He fled the Stalinist purges and he was the only one is his family that did so."
He didn’t like to talk about what he experienced as an ethnic Ukrainian at the hands of the Stalinist regime, but Stone learned about his history through what her mother shared. Stone says she still feels an echo of the horrors her family faced in Ukraine. Her paternal baba died during that time after she was denied medical care for a fractured leg by the Soviets, who’d already burned the forests surrounding the town where she might have gathered medicinal herbs to treat her leg and her uncle was put into a concentration camp by the Nazis.
In a sense, Stone says, sharing the stories passed on to her from family through the eyes “Baba” helped her cope with the overwhelming sadness as a way to "laugh to keep from crying."
With Baba's Kitchen, Stone invites readers to take a taste of Ukrainian culture, its history and its food with stories from a character close to her heart.