August 01, 1998

The great bird's milk secret

Russians say that someone who is jaded and has it all lacks only ptichye moloko ("bird's milk"). The allusion is to the fact that there is no such thing in nature as the milk of a bird. So the notion of ptichye moloko in Russian folklore is associated with something luxurious, and, at the same time, ephemeral, subtle, volatile and unattainable.

Actually, after so many recipes published in this department, bird's milk seems to be about the only thing regular readers of this feature are missing (what with pelmeni, bliny, borsch, and many other traditional Russian recipes already taken care of). So we thought you would be interested in revisiting with us the short yet interesting history of this Russian dessert.

To begin with, the Ptichye moloko torte is a purely Russian invention. The inventor is Prague restaurant pastry Vladimir Guralnik, who comes from a family of pastry-chefs (his father worked in the Moskva hotel restaurant and his mother in the Budapest hotel restaurant). Vladimir has worked at the Prague restaurant since 1953.

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