Halloween is a fun time for adults and children alike. Dressing up and (lots!) of candy collection are the name of the game, and this year we’re also seeing a resurgence of cultural costumes. In Los Angeles, there was certainly a number of Russian-themed parties to attend. From Matreshka’s to Pioneers, Russian costumes were prevalent. In honor of the holiday, I decided to pay homage to our cultural background with a few fun photos of Russian-themed costumes, and my recent Halloween “Pioneer Camp” Birthday Bash extravaganza.
Combining Halloween and my birthday, I decided to invited my friends to a Russian-themed party we dubbed Pioneer Camp “Big Bear” (Пионерский Лагерь Большая Медведица). We rented a large cabin in Big Bear Mountains — just about 100 miles outside of Los Angeles, and converted it into a bonafide camp cabin, complete with red flag, red pioneer stars and even red pioneer neckerchiefs. Many of us left the USSR long before we were old enough to be pioneers, yet nostalgia got the better of us and we decided to dedicate the night to a Soviet-esque celebration.
We divvied up the responsibilities for cooking, cleaning and entertainment and even had our very own camp director, chef, and MC. Cooking for twenty four hungry adults, and five small children, is no small feat — but Dima, our trusted chef, was up to the challenge. Our giant kitchen was serve as the homeless for what turned out to be a masterful production of an upscale Russian ‘camp’ dinner. We peeled two bags of potatoes for a side of Russian mashed potatoes; mashed with steamed cauliflower, milk, butter and plenty of sour cream.
We baked a freshly caught salmon with lemon slices and fresh herbs (cilantro, dill and garlic), and roasted a lamb shank with a red wine glaze. Outside, Shurik grilled onions and perfectly skewered shashliks … and a few veggies that were tossed on the grill somewhere between the first and second round of drinks. We also churned out three different types of salads — classic red cabbage with sour cream; shredded green cabbage and apple slaw dressed with fresh lemon juice and olive oil; and chopped Russian salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, radish and green onion.
Of course no celebration would be complete without shots of Russian Standard Platinum and live guitars. Luckily, our party had no shortage of musicians who hauled their favorite guitars up to Big Bear for an impromptu concert. Armed five acoustic guitars, three semi-professional vocalists and iPhones that helped us find the lyrics to our favorite Soviet era songs, we turned an ordinary party into a pioneering night of singing and dancing. The only thing missing — a proper campfire!