If there were an award for ‘the most significant contribution to promoting Ukrainian culture abroad’, Olia Hercules would definitely be the winner. In 2015 she released her first cookbook Mamushka that drastically changed attitudes towards Ukrainian cuisine and culture. Ukrainian food, which was largely unknown to the British public or considered gloomy and boring, is now becoming trendy and exciting. All thanks to Olia’s charming book, exciting food blog, fantastic ‘food photos’, numerous appearances on national UK TV channels, and tantalising kitchen pop-ups in different parts of the UK.
“Ukrainian food deserves to be known, loved and popular, just like French or Italian.” Olia Hercules
On Thursday 17 December Olia gave a talk at the Ukrainian Institute in London, kindly accepting the invitation of its new director Marina Pesenti. The room was completely packed, the gathered crowd excited, and the Q&A could have lasted forever.
“I love your organic food, the idea of going back to your roots. Thank you for making us try something different from what we are used to!” Audience member
Those who missed the talk can find out more about the story of Olia’s book in numerous interviews published in prominent world media outlets, including the Guardian, TimeOut London etc. A Google search of her name would give hundreds of articles!
In short, the path from the idea of writing a book to its release took several years, even after the recipes were collected and drafted. Olia had to make herself known in the culinary world, and be more visible in the social media and among food professionals. Once a publisher agreed to work on her project, Olia organized a trip to Ukraine for the publishing team. 9,000 photos were brought back to London from the trip, and only the best ones were included into the book.
“I’ve been following you on Instagram, and been always admiring how you’ve been portraying Ukrainian food and culture” Audience member
Mamuskha has now been translated into several languages, including German and Dutch (translation into four more languages will appear in 2016). It is sold on Amazon, in major UK grocery stores, bookshops, and culinary schools. All the copies that Olia brought to the Institute sold out in no time.
But it’s not only a great book, its Olia’s remarkable personality that attracts people’s attention. You won’t find a more passionate promoter of Ukrainian cuisine and everything that’s connected with it. The way she speaks about vareniki (Ukrainian dumplings), excessive use of fat in Ukrainian dishes, baking with yeast etc. makes you excited and hungry!
“Ukrainian food is far more exciting than many others! I love to cook it and I love to eat it! I can only eat 5-7 Italian raviolis, but I can definitely have 40 ‘varenikis’ in one go.” Olia Hercules
Olia believes that important part of cooking is about energy exchange. When one cooks, he or she transfers their energy into the food they cook, which then is shared with others. This is why you remember and enjoy family dinners, where mothers put all their love into their cooking. Listening to Olia’s passionate talk about cooking and its meaning for her, the audience wondered whether she ever had plans to open a Ukrainian restaurant in London. And the most exciting news of the day was that she is definitely thinking about this!
Would you come to Olia’s Ukrainian Hipster Joint? We definitely would!
Tags: ukrainian cuisine