Even though Women’s History Month has started as a celebration of women in American history, it has by now been accepted internationally as an occassion to commemorate exceptional women of the world. My post is a tribute to all women in the military, past and present, those known and famous, as well as the unknown heroines. It is dedicated to my dear friend Jennifer, retired Marine sergeant, who worked for me as a project manager when I was running the school for children with special needs. In a highly volatile environment of special children, their stressed-to-the-limit parents, and fantastically creative and innovative staff, Jennifer maintained her cool and kept everything under control. With her lovely Jamaican smile, she was my right hand, my left hand, and sometimes the better part of my brain. My gratitude, love, and many blessings to you, dear friend!
Yet today, Beautiful People, you will meet one of those ladies who had to disguise their gender in order to fight for their country. In Russia, she is known as The Hussar Maiden, the first and the only one who actively fought against Napoleon invasion in 1812.
It made for a delightful movie, called The Hussar Ballade, but it’s not true. Nadezhda Durova, or Alexandra in the movie, was not the only and not even the first; she was the only one of those glorious ladies who also had a literary talent and wrote her memoirs “Notes of a Cavalry Maiden,” marked by the great Pushkin as “worthy of publication” (Senyavskaya, Psychology of War: Russian Historical Experience). Encouraged by Pushkin, she also wrote and published several novels and short stories. All that, of course, happened after her retirement from active military service.
Daughter of a hussar rotmistr (rank equal to captain), little Nadezhda was passionately hated by her mother for… not being a boy! As she later wrote in her “Notes,” when she was less than a year old, crying in the carriage, her mother grabbed the baby from nanny’s arms and tossed it out the carriage window. We will not discuss this “mommy dearest,” Beautiful People, but the baby, all covered with blood, was found by hussars. The father then gave Nadezhda into a hussar’s care. “A saddle, – wrote Durova, – was my first craddle; horses, weapons, and military music – my first toys and amusements.” Little wonder that, having grown up as a baby hussar, Nadezhda didn’t take kindly to a forced marriage at the age of 18. She promptly gave birth to a son, whom she left with her husband, and returned home. But home was ruled by the hateful mother who doted on the long-awaited younger brother.
Young and pretty Nadezhda made her first move towards an illustrous military career: dressed as a cossack, she joined a squadron. She did confess to having a romantic interest in a esaul (cossack squadron commander), but that didn’t last long. Pretty soon she figured out that besides uniform, all cossacks traditionally wore beards; lacking one, she ran a danger of being discovered, sooner or later. Another frantic run on her beloved stallion Alcides, and we find her in a cavalry regiment as a buck private, fighting victorius French forces in Eastern Prussia. From Tilsit, where the trusting Russian Tsar Alexander I signed a peace treaty with Napoleon, she sent a letter of apology to her father; when she ran away from home, she had left her female clothing on a river bank, and has been beset by pangs of remorse because she might have been mourned as drowned. Far from feeling happy that she was alive, dad was outraged. He wrote to a relative in St Petersburg, demanding his daughter’s return. The relative, close to court, showed this letter to the Tsar, who was awed by a woman desiring to fight for motherland. She was brought before the monarch who personally presented her with a coveted military decoration for extreme bravery and promoted her to an officer’s rank in an elite hussar regimen. The officer patent was issued in the name of the Tsar himself, Alexander, and the maiden name of her mother, Alexandrova. She served and fought there for a couple of years, until the gold braids on her brand new uniform wore out. Sadly, the brave young officer Alexander Alexandrov lacked the funds for a new uniform, and thus asked for transfer back to a cavalry regimen, from which she/he, who had by this time fully assumed male identity, retired as a rotmistr, a platoon commander, decorated many times and almost legendary for exemplary courage. Although she wrote her “Notes” under her real name, for the rest of her long life she dressed as a man and demanded to be addressed by her male name, gifted to her by Tsar Alexander I.
This pie, inspired by a lovely and creative blogofriend Jeanne of https://ajeanneinthekitchen.com, is so disgused that it has lost its original identity many tweaks ago. Having started out as a pot pie, it has first lost its crust, as having too many carbs nobody needs. Instead, it has gained a sweet potato topping which made it resemble a shepherd or a cottage pie. But it is neither, since it has no vegetables but mushrooms, so it must be a distant relative to the famous British beef and mushroom pie. Yet again, what about that sweet potato topping replacing the customary crust? And anyway, it’s not real beef but plant-based substitution. Mushrooms are very real, though, and the end result is delicious!
- 1/2 cup plant-based ground beef substitute of your choice
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1/3 onion, sliced in semi-circles
- 3 -4 garlic cloves, diced
- 1 inch ginger, grated
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped and some more for garnishing
- 1 large sweet potato, boiled
- 2 tablespoons almond flour
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- Sprinkle of Garam Masala
- Sprinkle of cinnamon
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Saute garlic until fragrant, add onions and mushrooms, saute until mushrooms soften. Add beef substitute, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, ginger, Garam Masala, chopped cilantro. Saute for a few minutes, until mushrooms are fully cooked. Transfer to lighly misted with oil baking dish.
- Puree boiled sweet potato, add almond flour, sprinkle with cinnamon, sea salt, and pepper. Spread evenly on top of beef and mushrooms base, garnish with a few cilantro sprigs.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Serve hot.
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.