Traditional Russian “New Year table”
One might be surprised that this article is about New Year celebration, not Christmas. But yes, the first one is the top-celebrated festival of all, thanks to Soviet propaganda that meant to bring down all the Christian traditions and substitute them with the ideology of new time. The New Year celebration was also perfect to get rid of traditional gastronomic habits of orthodox society moving the date of changing years from September to January when Russian people used to fast. And since the beginning of 20th century Russian New Year table is meant to be as reach as possible (at those times impossible but people still managed to have it). In the times of deficit people would save products from long before the celebration itself. Rich table was (and, well, still is) the symbol of better life in the future year.
Most of the times to get a good table set people would need to cooperate with their friends so New Year celebration would always be very crowdy. There is probably no need in financial cooperation in present but New Year celebration still means inviting loads of friends and relatives.
So what should be there on the table for the feel of New Year? Let me give the top list:
Champagne (Soviet champagne in the nearest past)
Red caviar sandwiches
Zalivnoye (meat or fish in jelly)
“Herring under fur coat” (guess what it is - the answer in one of the next posts)
Delicacies from relatives from all around Soviet Union (salo, pickled vegetables - cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbage etc)
All of it is traditionally served in huge bowls. Despite major poverty in an ordinary soviet family those used to be big crystal carved bowls. Additional decoration on every salad in a crystal bowl would be a branch of dill or parsley - "for beauty". Another decor on the table - walnuts wrapped in foil. There was not much chocolate in the past, in my childhood of 80s, but there would always be some small pieces of chocolate to put into my mother's glass of champagne to watch them go up and down and back, and chocolate candies to hang on the New Year tree. Some of the candies were fake (cause it was hard to find them and there were only few of them to enjoy). My mom was always surprised to find that by the time of tree removal all of the candy wraps were filled with cotton.
Ah, nostalgia... But we still carry most of the gastronomic traditions on. Though it is impossible to surprise my kids with candies or tangerines. And hope they will never understand why one should have bought three cans of sprat in addition to a tiny tin of caviar or two cans of stew along with a stick of sausage.
If you still wonder what are those mysterious dishes listed above, read more about them in the next posts. Or better come and try! We'll take you to the places where they have the best versions of them!