This is Your Brain. This is Your Brain on Lent.

I will take a moment here to acknowledge my ridiculous hiatus from posting on this blog! It seems fitting to get back in the game during another lent – this time the one before Christmas. Much has happened since I last wrote – the most significant being that my husband, Andrei, accepted position through his work in Moscow, Russia! So we are living back and forth between Moscow and New Jersey for a year or possibly two. Currently we are in an apartment with a tiny kitchen which should spark some interesting stories.

I want to first catch up on some dishes that I was making back when my sister and I began writing the blog.

I will start with the Tomato, Fennel and Crab soup:

To make this dish vegan, skip the crab.

This is part of the heading for the recipe. I made this during my experiment of avoiding imitation meat and dairy products for the Great Lent before Russian Orthodox Easter. It makes me chuckle because in a Russian Orthodox person’s loose definition of vegan, this is a perfect dish for lent!

A quick explanation of lent: Basically, we do not eat meat or dairy products the entire duration of lent. Many times oil and fish are to be omitted from the diet as well, except on special days. Most people will just stick to avoiding meat and dairy and will explain that they are vegan (however, shellfish like shrimp, clams, mussels etc are allowed).

There are four main lenten periods. Two are in the summer – so thanks for the BBQ invite, neighbor, do you mind grilling up this tasteless garden burger I brought for myself? The four lents add up to about 17 – 21ish weeks depending on the year. Every Wednesday and Friday during the year is a lenten day as well. So really we are vegan except the days we aren’t.

And even on the days when we aren’t vegan, our food choices reflect the participation in this practice. If you want to know whether your Russian Orthodox friend sticks to lent or not, suggest sushi on a Monday or Tuesday evening. If they say yes without suggesting a steak house alternative first, and it isn’t one of the above mentioned lenten periods, then they do not do lent. I can’t tell you how many times I have been to a restaurant on, let’s say, a Thursday, and I keep eyeing the ‘Fettucine with Shrimp in a Creamy Tomato Sauce with Pancetta’. What torture. How can I possibly order that on a Thursday?! I don’t want to eat shrimp today, but I can’t have that dish tomorrow. I will never eat that dish. “I’ll have the filet mignon please, rare – extra meat on the side”.

If you really abide by the rules of lent, then the only time you will truly enjoy a tuna melt, shrimp or mushroom risotto, and a omlette without meat, will be the week before Great Lent starts (before Easter). This week is called Maslenitsa (Cheesefaire) and you can have everything but meat. Don’t try to lie and tell me you would eat a tuna melt on a random Sunday. As good as it sounds, you won’t want it.

A few years ago my husband and I were going to a friend’s BBQ in the summer during lent. We agreed that given most of the food would not be lenten, we would allow ourselves this one party to break lent (So as not to offend the host – a lent-loophole that we Orthodox tend to take advantage of). On the way I wanted to stop for coffee. Starbucks at the time was one of the only coffee places with soy milk. We found one on the gps and headed to it. We managed to get lost and ended up adding about an hour to our trip…so I could get the soy misto…so I could drink it on the way to the party where we would stuff our faces with mac ‘n cheese and buffalo wings.

…this is your brain on lent.

I found the tomato, fennel and crab soup easy and delicious. If you are making a lot I suggest sticking to making it for lent. Don’t even get me started on lenten leftovers during a week where only two days are lenten.

Tomato, Fennel & Crab Soup – Bon Appetit, January 2011


  • 1/4cupolive oil
  • 3 1/2cupschopped onions
  • 2medium fennel bulbs with fronds; bulbs cored, thinly sliced, fronds  chopped and reserved
  • 3large garlic cloves, minced
  • 214 1/2-ounce cans diced tomatoes  in juice
  • 2cups(or more) vegetable  broth
  • 8ouncesfresh crabmeat, picked  over
  • Additional olive  oil
  • 41/2-inch-thick slices pain rustique or rustic whole wheat bread,  toasted


  • Heat 1/4 cup oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add  onions, fennel slices, and garlic; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté  until onions and fennel are tender, stirring often and adjusting heat to medium  if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice and 2 cups  broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until flavors blend and  vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in crabmeat and add more  broth by 1/4 cupfuls to thin soup, if desired; simmer just until heated through,  3 to 4 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper.
  • Divide soup among bowls. Sprinkle each with chopped fennel  fronds. Drizzle each serving with oil. Serve with  toasts.

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One Comment to “This is Your Brain. This is Your Brain on Lent.”

  1. Olya, this was hilarious! Thanks for the smiles you brought to my face. 🙂

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