Harvest Kitchen: A Russian Heirloom Dish

Get wrapped up in one woman’s immigration story which takes her from Kazakhstan, to Siberia, and finally to the U.S., where her stuffed cabbage recipe still serves her well.

Photo by Getty Images/LauriPatterson

When you look around at the culinary landscape of the United States, there’s an indisputable fact: While immigrant women may have jumped into our melting pot, they held their own spoons. As immigrant Tina Yao said so eloquently, “People refer to the USA as a melting pot, but I’m not so sure. Instead, I think America is more of a stained-glass window. We come here, live, but we still remain who we are.” We do all come together, assimilate, and fit in to make the overall culture work and blend. However, each one of us also chose to maintain our pane of glass, which remains intact and shines bright among all the others.

Immigrant women are a special group. The strength they showed at a young age, packing a bag, waving goodbye to their parents, and heading to a new and strange country was an epic feat. Their gumption and courage were boundless, and that fire still burns within them. Today, women from all over the world still see America as a place where life can be better, with more opportunities for themselves and their children.

Upon arrival, they often embrace the American way of life. They raise sons and daughters; many attend university, juggle work, learn English, and become citizens. But through it all, they maintain another critical practice: They hold fast to their native cultures. While encouraging their children to excel in school, they also make sure their mother tongues are spoken at home. Many become adventurous in the kitchen by learning how to roast a turkey for an American Thanksgiving, but they also incorporate the foods of their homeland into the holiday smorgasbord, as well as into the day-to-day meals of their families.

Maintaining the culture of their origin countries isn’t necessarily a statement; it simply creates the comfort of home in a new place. Each day, heading out, speaking with an accent, and navigating this new world all becomes a little less overwhelming when the knowledge of a warm bowl of their own mother’s food is waiting in the safe haven of their home. In their American kitchen, the swirling aromas of their country’s ingredients and spice blends can be created within minutes of stepping through the door. That’s the magic of food — it transports.

Marina’s Story

Immigration wasn’t new to Marina Varshisky when she came to the United States as a young wife and mother. Picking up and moving to a better place had been a critical piece of her family’s history for many generations. She recounted how her father, as a young boy, immigrated to Siberia after narrowly escaping the German invasion of Kazakhstan. That fateful day changed the course of their lives and their future.

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