Vitaly Lubetsky is a man of versatile talent. He is an actor, a film director. He writes film scripts and drama. He also likes to cook and is putting his hobby to good use. Vitaly is the producer of the Convent's culinary channel on YouTube. It is called "Monastic Recipes" and is highly popular among our Russian-speaking audiences. We have asked Vitaly to tell us more about the mission and objectives of the channel, and how it might be relevant and useful to our readers.
Why was the ‘Monastic Recipes’ channel established, and what are its objectives?
Let me start with a short anecdote. One of my acquaintances, an unchurched young man who happened to be a photographer, was taking talking pictures of my wedding together with his sister. After the wedding, he remarked how much fun he had had and how impressed he was with the cheerfulness and vitality he saw among the Orthodox. I hope that the viewers of our channel will discover for themselves the beauty and vitality of Orthodox believers and monastics, just like my acquaintance the photographer experienced the joy of being among Christians. I want them to notice the brilliance of their eyes and smiles. I hope they will admire the great warmth and love with which they serve the dish that they have just cooked on camera.
We also show our audiences that Orthodox fare is about creativity and good taste, where every dish is made with love and prayer, and all are invariably delicious. I sometimes ask for permission to take a piece and share it with my family, and they always enjoy it very much.
Finally, our channel helps everyone have a positive experience of Orthodoxy. Some might even be interested in visiting our Convent as a result, and it might change his life for the better. I hope so from all my heart.
How is your channel different from secular culinary shows, and how do these distinctions relate to its objectives?
Our channel exists to present monastic recipes, and our guests are mostly those have chosen the path of monasticism. We are a show without an anchor. Our Convent's spiritual father asks a monastic sister to come and present her dish, and it sometimes comes as a surprise to her.
Our monastic sisters come from different corners of the world, and we believe that this geographical variety is our great strength. Our first shows featured a nun from Serbia, we also had several sessions with a nun from Brazil. Next, we featured a sister from Kazakhstan, and then from the Russian Ural Mountains. All presented some interesting and unusual dishes that were nevertheless quite easy to make.
Prebranac - a traditional Serbian dish
Another distinct feature of our channel is that we give priority to Lenten meals. We keep the presentations short and fit them neatly into three minutes or less.
Finally, every entry we present has a personal story, some individual life experience behind it. One of our most recent features, prebranac - made from beans - is a traditional Serbian dish. The monastic sister who presented it told me that a lot of families in her home country depended on it for their survival during the Yugoslav war.
A sister from Kazakhstan cooked a traditional Kazakh dish called Beshbarmak. Beshbarmak is translated from Kazakh as "five fingers" because you eat it with your hands. It is perfect for a large gathering of people, or large parties or celebrations. Almost every dish that we present in our show is connected with some meaningful episode in somebody's life. Most monastics have difficulty sharing their experiences on camera - they become too shy to speak. But these details are always behind the scenes in every show.
A traditional Kazakh dish - Beshbarmak
Imagine you are on air. Tell your audience about your favourite dish, and share its recipe.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends - today, I will show you how to cook a simple Lenten dish - a sandwich with canned sprats. I have cooked it in many kitchens throughout the region, from Moscow to Krasnodar, and from Minsk to Warsaw. Making it is a great family activity, everyone can take part. It makes cooking and housekeeping fun because everybody helps. And what I like most about it is to hear the crunching as everyone digs in.
To make enough sprat sandwiches for the whole company, we will need a loaf of white bread, some Lenten mayonnaise, a can of sprats, garlic, pickled cucumbers, fresh tomato and lemon. Cut the bread into thin pieces and toast both sides until golden. Then rub both sides with garlic, add a squish of Lenten mayonnaise, put two sprats on each piece, then cut each piece diagonally into two halves. Add a thin slice of lemon and tomato on each side. You can also add some dill on top if you prefer. Your sandwich is ready.
I always keep a few cans of sprats in my fridge. Making the sandwich takes only a few minutes, and everyone likes it. You can make as many as twenty sandwiches with one can.
Three films created at the Convent's studio have received awards and a certificate of recognition at a film festival in Kiev.