An unknown French traveler, visiting Russia during summer (there are summers in Russia, Beautiful People!), rested in the shade of a luxuriously leafy crown of a huge tree. Apparently not familiar with Russian flora, he inquired about the name of the tree. “Klyukva – cranberry,” – with a straight face replied the Russian guide, always ready to pull wool over a foreigner’s eyes. Back in France, the seasoned globetrotter reported that he found respite sous l’ombre d’un kliukva majestueux – under the shade of majestic cranberry.
A few years later, Alexander Dumas père, who spent two years traveling across Russia, from St Petersburg and Moscow, to Kazan, Astrakhan, and Tbilisi, also mentioned in his Adventures in the Caucauses that he had not only sat under the overhanging cranberry branches, but even tasted “the marvelous berries.” Knowing boastful nature of the flamboyant writer, it is understandable that Dumas simply could not admit that he never had a chance to see a curiosity described by his predecessor. However, in a way, Russians did feed their famous guest some “majestic cranberry;” a phrase that became idiomatic in Russia, denoting both ridiculous perceptions of Russia, formed by ignorant foreigners, and deliberate Russian deceptions engineered to pull wool over those foreigners’ eyes.
Dumas, while quite aware of his hosts’ expertise to grow entire forests of majestic cranberry trees in order to create an impression, still bought into an artfully staged assault by a band of savage, armed to teeth, mountain Georgians. In reality, the attack was about as real, as the traditional Georgian dance Lezginka; it was designed in order to have a reason to name Alexander Dumas “an honorary Kossack.” Nevertheless, contrary to swashbuckling heroes of his novels, the famous author admitted that he had been truly frightened.
Yes, “when sword crossed sword,” the literary giant was not ready “to dare and die.” Yet, faced with public insults about his African ancestry, Dumas proved fearless. Despite his aristocratic background (his grandfather was a marquis), he has often suffered from discrimination; his grandmother was a Haitian slave, and his father, an illustrious young general of the French Revolution, was the first mulatto who has achieved this rank in the French army. Dumas wrote a short novel Georges about racial issues and the effects of colonialism. His response to one of his offenders became famous:
“My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great-grandfather a monkey. You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends.”
The real cranberry, of course, does not grow on trees, majestic or otherwise, but with a minimal effort you can make a traditional Russian cranberry mors, a refreshing and pretty majestic drink. According to Medical News Today, “Cranberries in particular offer a range of health benefits. They are a good source of various vitamins and antioxidants.
Historically, Native Americans used cranberries as a treatment for bladder and kidney diseases, while early settlers from England used them to treat poor appetite, stomach complaints, blood disorders, and scurvy.” In addition, they reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, slow cancer progression, and regulate blood sugar (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/269142.php#benefits).
All you need to take advantage of all this goodness is a pound of cranberries (fresh or frozen), a cup of sugar or substitute or your choice, a gallon of water, and twenty minutes. And if you want it to inspire fantasies about a majestic cranberry tree, add a few ice cubes and a shot of rum.
- 1 lb fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 cup sugar or substitute or more to taste
- 1 gallon of water
- Combine cranberries and water, bring to boil, reduce heat. Simmer for 10 – 15 minutes until berries are soft.
- Drain and mash up berries through fine mesh sieve, squeezing out maximum liquid.
- Place liquid into pot, add sugar, bring to boil, remove from heat immediately.
- Serve chilled.
- Frozen cranberries soften faster than fresh.
- Reserve discarded berry skins to add to yogurts and desserts.
About the guest author:
Dolly Aizenman is the brainchild behind Kool Kosher Kitchen (Which her blog and her book are named after).
This charismatic Russian blogger is fond of cooking and writing.
She has a BA in Art and Music Education, MA in English, MS in Education and Ed.D. in Educational Leadership.