When I was growing up in the Northern Caucasus mountains, in the twilight years of the Soviet Union, the stores were mostly empty. And so, if you wanted pastries or desserts, you baked and made them yourself.
Food was seasonal, and many berries and fruit were picked in the wild or at collective farms, not purchased. Come July, the wild raspberry shrubs along the road that led to the telescope where my parents worked were dotted with red, and we would walk up and down, picking the berries. At home, we used raspberries to make a wonderful souffle that only required some egg whites and sugar. We called it “raspberry yumminess,” and yes, I know that’s cheesy, but the word “souffle” wasn’t really a part of our vocabulary back then. I might’ve heard it, but I had no idea what it actually stood for.
Back then, we only had a mechanical mixer that had to be cranked by hand to keep the beaters working. Beating the raspberries, egg whites and sugar into submission to create the airy souffle therefore required some serious muscle and persistence – and the task was thus usually given to me. My elbow still has phantom pains when I remember how the red, sticky mass would slowly grow in volume, becoming pinker and lighter in the process. If all that cranking of the hand mixer wasn’t enough, there were leftover egg yolks that also had to be beaten with sugar to create a very simple kogel-mogel, which is similar to eggnog.
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