“I want to fight for the legitimate right of laughter in “serious” music.” ~ Dimitri Shostakovich, Russian composer (1906 – 1975)
Despite his best efforts to rework Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Dimitri Shostakovich was never able to make the opera acceptable to the Communist Party and it was banned in Russia for over 30 years. Indeed, were it not for a copy held in the archives of the U.S. Library of Congress, the original version of this powerful, tragic story might have been lost forever. I get the urge to listen to it every time the news features a story about censorship.
When I first started attending operas, I was delighted to learn that it is not unusual for people to dress in a way that reflects the material being presented. For some it is as subtle as including a hat from the era the opera takes place, and for others it means wearing very traditional dress to fit the story. Those who participate in this manner add to the dramatic atmosphere in a way that makes the experience more unforgettable.
Likewise, when we read certain books or listen to particular pieces of music at home, I like to prepare food that suits the story. Listening to a Russian classic pretty much demands that we eat Stroganoff. Here is a lighter, Meatless Monday version of that famous dish, adapted to include the last of the summer garden’s bounty.
Summer Squash Stroganoff
Time: 15 minutes
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon buttery spread such as Earth Balance
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 medium yellow summer squash, chopped
½ cup dry white wine or light vegetable broth
½ cup light sour cream or substitute
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large, non-stick frying pan, soften the onion in the buttery spread over medium heat for about 5 minutes, then stir in the zucchini and summer squash. Continue to cook until the squash is tender-crisp, then stir in the wine or vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 5 minutes.
Spoon some of the hot broth into the sour cream and stir to make a thin, creamy dressing. Stir into the squash mixture, then season with the nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
Serve hot over whole grain noodles, Russian rye bread, or brown rice, and complement the proteins for more complete nutrition with a side dish of fresh peas or pea pods.
Another Russian favorite, Sergi Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, available from some libraries for loan, is a fun choice to play with this meal if you share your table with young people.