Russian food - weird but so dear to Russian heart
I spent pretty much time thinking on what should the first post on Russian Food be. This blog category was initially made to help you choose the right dish at a Russian restaurant and be ready for unusual food traditions. But, to be honest, I got lost in the variety of specifics of our nutrition traditions. And I could not avoid taking this subject personally. So I decided to start with that - my own perception of what Russian special table is.
When I was a little kid the family meetings were truly unforgettable. I don't remember what we used to eat at home... Just a few dishes - mashed potatoes, sausages, cod fish, makaroni (I just can not name that flour product we had in Soviet Union pasta)... And it was impossible to get anything in a store - the shelves were always empty. Only once in a while we would spend hours in long "queues for sausage" (my kids don't understand that phenomena but we use this as an idiom - maybe more about that in another post) to find out it was over half an hour before. Same with meat and "Bush's legs" (chicken legs brought from US). But when it came to celebration of anything (somebody's birthday, New Year, wedding, retirement etc) the tables would be falling apart because of all those numerous plates and dishes with all different kinds of delicacies. Though they would seam to be a very strange combination of tastes today.
One would sure find Olivier, Herring under fur coat, Mimosa, smoked sausages sliced in the finest pieces, red caviar sandwiches (though they only appeared in my life when I was 7), canned sprats with black bread, stuffed eggs, Stooden (Zalivnoye) - a must!, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, pickled cucumbers and tomatoes, sour cabbage, ham rolls, jar of homemade jam mixed with water to make some kind of drink, vodka on the table. Those are snacks being put on the table at the very beginning. And all of that should be served in crystal ad porcelain taken out of cupboards only for guests.Then came boiled potatoes with baked chicken (or either Bush's legs that were quite popular and very special at that time) as the "second dish". But in between people would be saying they are too full for the second dish (chewing home-made pies brought to link the two courses), remembering some funny stories and memorizing them with another vodka shot (that is sure a subject for another post), and in an hour thinking that they are quite hungry to have another "hot course".
Another must for any celebratory meal (zastolye) is tea. Nobody would ever leave without having tea. And desserts - homemade pies stuffed with apple or some berries, big cake - either homemade or bought in Sever (I am now talking about Saint Petersburg, the story about it is also to come), and some rare candies that was quite impossible to find and buy. Sometimes guests would roll out of the hosts' houses spending half an hour at the entrance door (I think it was even impolite to leave right after one decided to do that) doing whatever. But sometimes there was somebody singing "table songs" or playing bayan (accordion) inviting everyone to dance. Then the tea part of the feast would be repeated couple of times.
There are still families that remember this period of solving quest puzzles to find delicacies for the celebratory meal to let the tables stay full even when all the guests (all the friends and relatives, even neighbors) were dying of overeating. And they keep this tradition of making several complex salads always finished with mayonnaise (to make it more hearty) hardly compatible with each other. They never forget to give a jar of salad or a piece of cake for guests to enjoy it the next day. But it is sad to say that now people became more modest. And now it is ok to have only two salads (a Russian salad and fresh vegetables) on the table to welcome guests because everybody is always in a rush and people understand that it is better to meet at a cup of coffee... But if you come to Russia and have a chance to have the feast meal of our nearest past, go for it - it is much fun and opens up new sides of your persona!
More about older food traditions is to be told the coming posts! Don't worry, be happy! And let Bereg help you organize the best gastronomic tour in Saint Petersburg for you!