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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kasha, Kisyel Feed a Child's Dreams

For Russian children, culinary experience starts with kasha and kisyel. Mama feeds them to you from a baby spoon, and you keep eating them all the way through kindergarten and primary school.

Kasha is a type of porridge made out of oatmeal, buckwheat or farina cooked in milk. Kisyel is a dessert drink made from potato starch or corn starch mixed with fruit juice or milk. It can be served hot or cold and has a slightly jello-like consistency.

Just because these foods are ubiquitous doesn't mean they are much-loved. I refused to eat farina unless it was covered with a heavy layer of strawberry jam or condensed milk. My mother and kindergarten teachers tried their best to make me eat it by telling me folk tales about a fairy kingdom gde tekut s kisyelnymi beregami molochnye reki, where the rivers flow with milk, the river banks are made of kisyel and miracles always happen.

To prepare this magic meal at home, dilute a teaspoonful of potato or corn starch into cold water, add juice (or milk and sugar) and hot water. Then boil. For a light, transparent drink, use potato starch and don't add jam. For a velvety, milky drink, use corn starch. You can also make kisyel so thick that is eaten with a spoon.

Russian grocery stores, especially the Dieta chain, offer pre-prepared kisyel. These days kisyel is readily available in all sorts of exotic flavors, including peach and mango.

Many people continue eating kisyel as adults: The starch has a soothing effect on irritated stomachs.

A few years ago you could also find kisyel in the form of a briquette. Kids at pioneer summer camps and soldiers during military service used to eat it straight when they were starving for something sweet.

and can help when you have a cold