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Does Russian food exist? A critical analysis

Discuss culture, living, traveling, relocating, dating or anything related to Russia, Ukraine, or the former Soviet Republics.

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Does Russian food exist? A critical analysis

Postby Winston » Thu Mar 01, 2012 7:34 am

While I was in Russia complaining about the food, my colleague there at the business gazette I worked for, an East Indian and a long time resident of Moscow (9 years), told me this about "Russian food", which I documented in my trip journals.

http://www.happierabroad.com/RussiaJournals2004.doc

“Dear Winston,
Well, actually you're right about the Russian food. Living here, I very often hear the words "Russian culinary" or "Russian food" said out loudly! You must have noticed from the profiles of women you go through on the net that say they like "Russian Food".

But what is this Russian food? Frankly speaking, living in Russia for 9 good years, I've come to the conclusion that there is no such thing called the Russian culinary!

Imagine - how people eat chicken - take a chicken leg, put it in water to boil add salt little onion and garlic. Some people put a leaf of something while its boiling. Take it out, and eat it with cucumber and tomatoes, some vodka or beer. There are no elaborate preparations. And the taste- gross. I new a man who would go to the market to select meat and he would take the raw blood frozen raw piece of meat and taste it right there.

The usual Russian bread is the 'brick' or the 'baton'! which is hard.
Though not as hard as the real brick but something similar.
The dishes:
1. Borsch - the borsche is a soup made of a few vegetables and often
done with meat.
It is a Ukrainian specialty not Russian.
2.Schie - it is considered Russian. some vegetables also cooked with
meat. Has salt in it.
3. Mashed potatoes (kartoshka) - Boiled salted potato mashed and eaten
with anything.
4. Pelmeni - meat balls stuffed in flour (oval shaped). When stuffed
with potato, cabbage or cheese - it's called another name.
5. Blini - pan cakes. Flour, some egg, milk and sugar mixed and poured
on panes.
Though Russians think this a bigtime Russian speciality
and begining of Spring is celebrated with Blins, you can find them anywhere
else too.
6. Russian salad - could be anything. Sour milk cream mixed with meat
or crab meat or shrimp with green peas, cucumber, reddish and maize. In most cases you get
green peas and maize (actually always) marinated in tins. Not fresh.
As a rule, meat is the most vital part of diet. Anything is made
of it.
Oh yeah and I forgot to mention the meat fried with sun flower oil -
cutlets. And the ever favorite sausages. As such these are available in any country. There is
nothing so Russian about it! You can boil or fry anything. It doesn't become Russian that way only.
7. Chocolates and ice-creams - I you can always hear them saying these
are the best in the world. There is an ad on tv showing woman one lady
traveling to Europe by train who is told by another Russian chocolate eating woman that she won't get
these in Europe, the lady upon hearing this stops the train by pulling the chain
and goes back by foot to Russia, just because she doesn't want to miss Russian Chocolate. Though
they are trying to improve them using imported technology, but traditionally, the taste is just
gross.
8. Biscuits - big and gross. Look and taste something like the square
paper mat you get served under your beer mug in bars. There is a joke on this. A drunk is served
beer he gulps it down quickly and asks for again. This happens for the fourth time. When the
bartender gives him the fifth mug, he asks what about the biscuit? The bartender asks what biscuit? He
says - the one you give free with every mug! So the drunk thought it was the biscuit. Also many
russians may just keep a piece of bread or biscuit on the table, not the plate!

All these things are available in other countries too and are made the
same way or usually much better.
To be honest, there is nothing Russian about them. We can't talk about
any national recipes or cooking skills here!

Spices - Sorry, there are no spices! Well, okay, salt and pepper. Most local spices come from the caucasus regions of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia etc. They are not the best though. As such, Russians can't really handle any spices in their food! Any spice seems to be an equivalent of "chilly" and "hot"!
So no wonder most food is plainly salted. They on the contrary think spices take away the real taste of food. Potato should taste like potato. With coriander or something in it would loose the original taste.
I've seen exceptions to this though.

When a Russian friend came to India, she was blown away with the variety of vegetarian dishes, sweets and
ice cream. We cooked everyday a new dish for one month. Anyway, If you want, I'll tell you about Indian
food some other time. Local things made with traditional recipes that taste great.
As for now - you can enjoy the great "Russian Culinary"!
:)
Last edited by Winston on Sun Jul 08, 2012 1:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Banano » Thu Mar 01, 2012 8:57 am

' spices take away the real taste of food..'

spices are used as camouflage, if meat is good quality it doesnt need nothing added to it as it will ruin the taste (salt and pepper is ok), some say salt is not needed..our taste buds are just used to it

if i wanna taste potato i wana taste potato not chilli or tomato sauce, if i wanna taste squid i wanna taste of squid not soy sauce...
some butchers eat raw meat btw(beef), its healthy and it makes you horny as hell:p



always rmbr keep it simple
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Postby ladislav » Thu Mar 01, 2012 10:24 am

A brain is a terrible thing to wash!
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Postby AlexeyPolarny » Sun Jul 08, 2012 8:38 am

Excuse me, but all that above was just a personal opinion of a limited mind.

Is that guy a professional cook? Is he a culinary historian or a critic?

When you buy CHEAP stuff (like old bread or commercial pelmeni) in supermarkets, do you expect to discover the taste of a cuisine? When you see a person who CANNOT cook - and puts chicken into boiling water for some time - do you expect anything at all???

Yes, there's no much kinds of spices or vegetables used in Russian cuisine - but damn, this is a NORTHERN country and any cuisine is formed by climate.

Also, most of the world cuisines are about the technique. If we take the meringue (egg whites and sugar!) - we will see how many variations there are: French, Italian, Swedish - and all of them are still just egg whites and sugar.

Again, don't consider that all French or Italian people can cook.

On Russian chocolate - if one doesn't like traditional Russian chocolate, that's not the reason to call it "crap". There are cheap examples of Russian chocolate which taste just like cheap analogues by Kraft, Nestle etc... Babayevsky, Korkunov and VK make excellent commercial chocolate (i've seen many Europeans buy boxes of it). Yes, some technologies are shared - that's a normal practice. If the taste of the traditional chocolate, made by old technologies without soy lecithin, vanilla "flavouring" and other surrogates (and that's what considered as the traditional Russian chocolate which shares one school with the French chocolate) is gross - what's good then? The taste of water from the river Indian people put human corpses into? By the way, this might shock the Indian guy, but cocoa is improted too as it doesn't grow in Russia...

One more important thing the Indian expert should know is that salt is not a spice.
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Postby Winston » Sun Jul 08, 2012 1:54 pm

Alexey,
Here is a response to you by my Indian friend that you critiqued above:

"Hi Win,

The Russian guy writes that salt is not a spice! India is famous for its spices for ages and where traders used to come for quality spices. Of course I know that salt is a mineral used for garnishing. It's mention was to point out that many dishes may simply have this very very basic ingredient alone.

The message on various russian food that you quoted from me before is quite elaborate.
What he's saying is basically defending out of basic national feeling of pride which I don't consider as wrong.
Everyone has a national pride feeling. But a foreigner cannot call a bad thing bad in Russia. The russian can. That is the norm.
I have lived in Russia not 9 years but 16 years by now and have known the country for about 25 years. I was promoting Russian culture and language many years back as well as teaching.
Am I a professional cook or critic? I'm a journalist and know how to do my research well, and besides am a cook too with good observation.
What is a professional cook? Are professional cooks making traditional dishes? lol.. NO!. They are not doing that really.
Professional cooks experiment a lot, make newer dishes, make constant changes, fuse tastes. Traditional russian dishes and culinary is simple. As the ingredients available in the snowy land are really limited. How many vegetarian dishes and spices were available in Soviet Russia is anybody's guess. People traditionally grow pretty much Kartoshka (potato), markovka (carrot), pomidory (tomato), svyokla, kinza, petrushka ...etc. I'm not a fan of meat. I don't eat dead animal/bird corpses to start with. But I invited some of my russian guests in New Delhi to taste butter chicken with authentic Indian preparation and they were totally blown away. They said they never tasted chicken so so good!!
Russians are not trained to handle shortcomings in their life. Especially pointed out by non russians. There are many things that I may not like about my own country but I can be honest about them and accept them.

"Excuse me, but all that above was just a personal opinion of a limited mind."

- The mind that knows so much in detail about your culture and cuisine and about its own too is certainly not limited, because that takes life's experience, observation and knowledge. :) But sorry, mention of your culinary limitation made you angry though.

"Is that guy a professional cook? Is he a culinary historian or a critic?"

- I have learnt russian cooking during my 16-17 year stay of course, have traveled enough and seen enough of life. Professional cooks have to serve a certain clientale. The dishes prepared do not have to be traditional. A journalist's research capabilities and skills make him good for his mostly neutral opinion that are far from limited. I don't have to be a top notch culinary expert of a country to comment and notice simple things in life and cuisine. It's what is wide spread in the people. This can be clear and well observed by a willing and observable eye.

"When you buy CHEAP stuff (like old bread or commercial pelmeni) in supermarkets, do you expect to discover the taste of a cuisine? When you see a person who CANNOT cook - and puts chicken into boiling water for some time - do you expect anything at all???"

- But this is what many people in russia do, as seen. This is home cooking and home cooking is traditional cooking and not what restaurants serve in a hyped manner. Restaurants have to sell their stuff, so they hype it up. Pelmeni - commercial or not, there is nothing so russian in it!! Its the same floor wrapped meat ball. No special preparation.
I can show you the same pelmeni in traditional north east of India. They have been eating it for centuries!!

"Yes, there's not much kinds of spices or vegetables used in Russian cuisine - but damn, this is a NORTHERN country and any cuisine is formed by climate."

- Yes. Nothing much really grows in there and there are no really elaborate developed preparations. The food is plain and simple. At times, I like some of the russian food too and find it good. But most Indians will find it too simple and plain.

"Also, most of the world cuisines are about the technique. If we take the meringue (egg whites and sugar!) - we will see how many variations there are: French, Italian, Swedish - and all of them are still just egg whites and sugar. "

- And yet its just meringue common to these countries. The techniques can different from Moscow to Kazan within the same country. Or the technique of one Babushka from another babulya on the same street. That's not the point. The point is that what is the original cuisine and preparation methods of that country which are unique and original to it only!!!
There is the Chinese cuisine that is authentic to China - born and developed there. There is Indian cuisine - South Indian and North Indian - born and developed there only, unlike anything else, anywhere else! There is Italian cuisine, there is French Cuisine for example too. That's what I'm talking about. I can name hundreds of dishes that are original and unique to India alone.

"Again, don't consider that all French or Italian people can cook. "

- of course not. Not all people in all countries can cook or cook well.
But there is a unique and original French and Italian cuisine.

On Russian chocolate - if one doesn't like traditional Russian chocolate, that's not the reason to call it "crap".

- We can call it something else of course. I never called it "crap" that you put it in quotes!! I shouldn't be misquoted. The word was "gross" in that message. If its good, we can call it good. I like some of the russian chocolate confetti. The quality has deteriorated of products put in many cases. I liked some of the traditional Ukrainian confetti too. If its not good, we can call it no good.

"There are cheap examples of Russian chocolate which taste just like cheap analogues by Kraft, Nestle etc... Babayevsky, Korkunov and VK make excellent commercial chocolate (i've seen many Europeans buy boxes of it)."

- That is alright. Which Europeans bought them? Were they chocolate critics, chocolate makers, experts? he he a similar question was posed by the russian gentleman defending russian cuisine.
But pokes apart, as I said russians like russian chocolates. But then, again, chocolate is not a russian discovery to start with and not the best in the world and again not russian. Chocolate is chocolate. It's not unique to russia. The guy in his zeal to defend russian culinary, is not getting the point. There are tons of traditional cuisines that are original to India and India alone!!! Nowhere in the rest of the world are these things made. If they go anywhere, they are known to be Indian. Chocolate is not traditional to India. But we have had Cadburry's chocolates since the english and they are delicious! Try out at least 'Crackle'. Nothing like that in Russia.
oh and Buscuits. We have amazing baked biscuits in India. The Russian traditional biscuits are big and don't taste as good at all. Not sophisticated in taste. Most of my russian friends carry back biscuit boxes.
But the real taker are the Indian sweets, that are unique to India only. There are thousands of varieties of them. Come over, be my guest and I'll be happy to serve you some! You'll forget the chocolates!

"Yes, some technologies are shared - that's a normal practice. If the taste of the traditional chocolate, made by old technologies without soy lecithin, vanilla "flavouring" and other surrogates (and that's what considered as the traditional Russian chocolate which shares one school with the French chocolate) is gross - what's good then?"

- Then, that's no good man. IF one particular traditional thing is grosser, then its what it is. Besides, since it "shares" one school with the French chocolate, then its sole credit cannot go to russia. There is not enough russian in it either. Besides if you get out of the kitchen and look at the architecture, then again, the russian architecture is all taken from the Italians, greeks and french for the most part. The buildings etc. The Churches and chapels are predominantly Orthodox style though. But let's stick to the kitchen first. Let's fill our tummies first and then we can go out for a walk see the architecture. :)

Traditional things may also have an attachment value to it. My babulya for example likes bread that is hard. She says why should I have a bread that is not hard. We cannot eat hard bread! So it's a matter of taste developed and attached too. If you like something, you should eat that and is good for you. Simple. But there is a refined and sophistication in taste too. Nevertheless, we are talking about it being unique to the region and not what is good or bad.

"What's good then - The taste of water from the river Indian people put human corpses into? By the way, this might shock the Indian guy, but cocoa is improted too as it doesn't grow in Russia... "

- Cocoa is imported to russia and does not grow there. This is very common knowledge and nothing to be shocked about it!! (India did not start doing business 20 years back and grows tons of things and is biggest producer and exporter of many things including tea, jute and cotton since ages.) Again, the credit doesn't go to Russia here. So what's the hype about? The previous message that Winston posted was correct about the cuisine. The Russian guy simply has to defend is all. One thing more, having lived in russia for a long long time, I consider it as my second home. My relations and friends are russian and I well understand the culture, traditions and they have been a part of me too. So there is just a healthy observation, not a put down or criticism. If I have to criticize something in Russia, I would do that just like I would criticize something in India. As it is everyone's part of life. Simple. There are things that you don't like, not because it is in your country or someone else's country. But many russians don't understand this, as they may tend to judge a person by their nationality and skin color and outward appearance. That he looks different than us. So they get on the defensive. This at times is kinda natural too.

The russian guy may know nothing about the holy Ganges and its water. All he knows is that people put human corpses into it, thanks to a few documentaries by american and british travelers. They have to find and get the most shocking and intriguing things to make it interesting and newsworthy! I invite him to experience it directly. In the last 35 years that I have traveled to the Ganges I've never seen someone drop a corpse into it. There is a special place, a cremation site where they do put ashes, sometimes burnt corpse. True. But it's not where you take water for use. The water is taken nearer to the clean source. This is as good as holy water. When I first traveled to the ganges, I didn't believe it. The water color also looked not very clean. But it has special properties and qualities. First, no matter how much you eat, it digests all very quickly. Taking a dip in the ganges is very refreshing. More refreshing and rejuvenating than a normal mountain river. Many holy rituals are done with this water for a purpose and there is an interesting story behind this too. Another experiment: take a bottle of clean water and keep it for one year along side the ganges water in another bottle. After one year the normal good water will not be good enough for drinking and will have developed bacterias and pollution in it, making it un drinkable. The Ganges water will remain pure and healthy even after keeping it for 5 years. Some people will not accept this as a fact. So one can always check it out for himself and see.

Sure I understand that Spices come from fruits like berries and pods and the herbs come from leaves of flowering plants, whereas salt comes from sea water and mines and is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride. Then we also have rock salt that is reddish brown in color. Salt is a seasoning for food preparations. It is also a preservatives. In India we have elaborate typical pickles that are prepared in mustard oil and salt to preserve them over a longer period of time. Russian pickles have water and vinegar base that can be preserved for lesser period of time. The love the sweeties, the varenie with high sugar content. For example, red berries in sugar syrup, to be eaten with bread as jam or tea mostly. Many russians do not put sugar in their tea but prefer honey or take some confetti or varenie traditionally.

Best wishes to you and the russian gentleman."
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Postby AlexeyPolarny » Sun Jul 08, 2012 5:07 pm

Thanks, Winston :)

Am I defending the Russian cuisine? No, not really, there is no need in that, it can stand for itself. I'm just fighting with ignorance.


What is a professional cook? It's a person who "...experiment a lot, make newer dishes, make constant changes, fuse tastes." - yes, it's also a person who knows the principles of cooking, characteristics of products, the history and traditions. So Russian people and Russian (let's use the French word "chef") chefs did "...experiment a lot, make newer dishes, make constant changes, fuse tastes" and by that formed the Russian cuisine.

Trdaitional Russian culinary is simple indeed. Traditional Italian culinary is also simple, they don't have as much types of frying as there is in Chinese cuisine - so what? The word simple doesn't exclude a good taste, and a good taste is only reached by quality of products and skills of the chef. If one prefers a complicated cuisine - there are French and Chinese ones.


"How many vegetarian dishes and spices were available in Soviet Russia is anybody's guess."

Every country has its dark periods. How many delicatessen were there in Europe during the WWII?


Russian cuisine serves one important purpose - it helps to survive in the extreme climate of Russia. First, in winter, to resist frost, the organism needs extra calories. Second, in winter one wouldn't go into anabiosis but would have to be active. That means Russian food must be highly nutritive. One more important thing - in India people enjoy the sun all year long (yes, there are periods of rains and just bad weather) but in Russia for 6-7 months of the year less than 10% of the body recieves the sun light, that means the organism simply needs animal fats and proteins and elements to function well (vitamin D for example). In summer Russian food helps to store vitamins in the organism, to stand heat and to provide calories as Russians had to work hard in summer (to prepare for winter). Those are the important principles upon wich Russian cuisine was designed.


"I invited some of my russian guests in New Delhi to taste butter chicken with authentic Indian preparation and they were totally blown away. They said they never tasted chicken so so good!!"

No one's ever considered Indian food as bad.


"The mind that knows so much in detail about your culture and cuisine and about its own too is certainly not limited, because that takes life's experience, observation and knowledge."

The mind is limited when it is closed for new things, one can read hundreds of works of classic writers but call them crap.


"Professional cooks have to serve a certain clientale. The dishes prepared do not have to be traditional."

True, if the audience wants something original - it gets something original, if one wants a traditional dish, he goes to a traditional restaurant. But the dishes, of course, can be either traditional or author’s. However, a trully professional chef must know and be able to cook traditional recipes.


"A journalist's research capabilities and skills make him good for his mostly neutral opinion that are far from limited. I don't have to be a top notch culinary expert of a country to comment and notice simple things in life and cuisine. It's what is wide spread in the people. This can be clear and well observed by a willing and observable eye."

I haven't heard your neutral opinion yet, only likes and dislikes. To give an OBJECTIVE opinion, one has to be a professional.


"This is home cooking and home cooking is traditional cooking and not what restaurants serve in a hyped manner."

Absolutely true. And home cooking itself can be: a) bad home cooking b) good home cooking. One cannot judge the whole cuisine by a result of attempts of a housewife who cannot cook.


"Restaurants have to sell their stuff, so they hype it up."

Also true. Restaurants have to make money. Restaurants are for gourmets and do not exist without chefs. But chefs, besides working in restaurants, also do research works, write articles and publish books on culinary, some try to save the traditional recipes, some promote recipes of their authorship, some do both.


"Pelmeni - commercial or not, there is nothing so russian in it!! Its the same floor wrapped meat ball. No special preparation. I can show you the same pelmeni in traditional north east of India. They have been eating it for centuries!!"

Yes. And there is nothing Italian in ravioli. And nothing Japanese in gyoza. Why visit an Italian restaurant for pasta if I can have Chinese noodles, right? There is no point to mention that Siberian pelmeni are made of at least three kinds of meat, the dough is made on ice instead of water, the size and form must be of some certain standard...


“Yes. Nothing much really grows in there and there are no really elaborate developed preparations. The food is plain and simple. At times, I like some of the russian food too and find it good. But most Indians will find it too simple and plain.â€￾

Tastes differ.


“The point is that what is the original cuisine and preparation methods of that country which are unique and original to it only!!!â€￾

So now there are patents in culinary? When different cultures use same techniques, does that mean one rips off another???


“There is the Chinese cuisine that is authentic to China - born and developed there. There is Indian cuisine - South Indian and North Indian - born and developed there only, unlike anything else, anywhere else! There is Italian cuisine, there is French Cuisine for example too. That's what I'm talking about. I can name hundreds of dishes that are original and unique to India alone.â€￾

There is Chinese cuisine, French, Indian, Italian but there is no Russian cuisine and everything made for centuries is nothing. Nice. Hitler would applause.


“Which Europeans bought them? Were they chocolate critics, chocolate makers, experts? he he a similar question was posed by the russian gentleman defending russian cuisine.â€￾

European folks from the countries with strong chocolate culture - Switzerland, Belgium and France. And the fact that people, who has tried excellent examples of hand made chocolate, admire the quality of Russian chocolate too, means a lot. Note, i did not say they had stopped eating chocolate made in their countries, they only had put Russian chocolate in their top list.


“IF one particular traditional thing is grosser, then its what it is.â€￾

I didn’t say modern technologies improved the taste of chocolate. They only make it easier to bring it to the market and sell for a cheaper price. Quite a different aim.


“Besides, since it "shares" one school with the French chocolate, then its sole credit cannot go to russia. There is not enough russian in it either.â€￾

There are things that came to French cuisine from Italy and were adjusted to French taste and known as French nowadays and vise versa (from sauces to pastries), that’s normal practice if countries have close relationship (think of Franco-Russian cuisine, a great example of collaboration). Of course, if one wants something extremely unique and original - Russians can bake a bear for him.


Isn’t Russian cuisine sophisticated enough? But it has never claimed to be sophisticated. As it’s never claimed to be the richest cuisine, the most complicated, neither most colourful. But it has never been bad. And saying that Russian cuisine does not exist... Well, that’s an ignorant spit into the face of the country (not just one nation, but into the face of a multi cultural country).

Russian cuisine serves its own purpose and is designed for some certain environment.


I can understand those who don’t like Russian food - they are not used to it, their organisms do not need such food, their tastes have been formed by different cultures, they miss home after all. But saying it’s crap (in your case, letting know it is) - well, I’m sorry, here you’ve gone too far. If one hasn’t tasted good examples of Russian cuisine (which includes lots of unique recipes of soups, snacks, main courses, pastries, desserts) - it only means he hasn’t tasted it, nothing more and nothing less.
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Postby Winston » Sun Jul 08, 2012 7:42 pm

I'm not a culinary expert, but I eat like everyone else. And I find Russian food to be very bland and tasteless. It's true that it's healthier because it doesn't have all those artificial chemicals that American food has, but then again, how come Russians have such a short life expectancy?

Also, I'm sure even you would agree Alexey, that Russian food is NOT good for vegetarians. Vegetarians are usually disappointed with food in Russia, but not with food in India.

Can you name any Russian cuisine, Alexey, that's unique?
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Postby Winston » Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:41 am

Hi Alexey,
Here is his next response. :) His comments start with a dash "-".

Am I defending the Russian cuisine? No, not really, there is no need in that, it can stand for itself. I'm just fighting with ignorance.

- Calling bland and tasteless food as that is not ignorance. Russian food can stand for itself - that's the pride, not the food.


What is a professional cook? It's a person who "...experiment a lot, make newer dishes, make constant changes, fuse tastes." - yes, it's also a person who knows the principles of cooking, characteristics of products, the history and traditions. So Russian people and Russian (let's use the French word "chef") chefs did "...experiment a lot, make newer dishes, make constant changes, fuse tastes" and by that formed the Russian cuisine.

- and what is that russian cuisine??? Nothing much beyond the 5-7 number of dishes that I had earlier enumerated really. And there is really nothing much "russian" in them as they are there in other countries. So my question is what is so russian about it? These dishes are not the experimented dishes that came to be known as Russian cuisine!!

Trdaitional Russian culinary is simple indeed. Traditional Italian culinary is also simple, they don't have as much types of frying as there is in Chinese cuisine - so what? The word simple doesn't exclude a good taste, and a good taste is only reached by quality of products and skills of the chef. If one prefers a complicated cuisine - there are French and Chinese ones.

I could partially agree. Simple is a leaf from a tree. Now someone may really love that and write a thesis on how great and nutritious it is.

"How many vegetarian dishes and spices were available in Soviet Russia is anybody's guess."

Every country has its dark periods. How many delicatessen were there in Europe during the WWII?

- Alright. Given, Soviet period was dark. And what exactly was before that then? If we take out meat and caviar, what authentic "russian" dishes were mainstream russian dishes of the masses and how russian were they? I'd like to remove my "ignorance". Please enlighten.

Russian cuisine serves one important purpose - it helps to survive in the extreme climate of Russia.

- I didn't ask the purpose to justify what is there and why and how. Simply that why is it so russian if it is russian at all?! That is my question! Survival food doesn't have to be necessarily good. People have used things to survive in the jungle.

First, in winter, to resist frost, the organism needs extra calories. Second, in winter one wouldn't go into anabiosis but would have to be active. That means Russian food must be highly nutritive. One more important thing - in India people enjoy the sun all year long (yes, there are periods of rains and just bad weather) but in Russia for 6-7 months of the year less than 10% of the body recieves the sun light, that means the organism simply needs animal fats and proteins and elements to function well (vitamin D for example). In summer Russian food helps to store vitamins in the organism, to stand heat and to provide calories as Russians had to work hard in summer (to prepare for winter). Those are the important principles upon wich Russian cuisine was designed.

- Dear Alexey, I completely agree with what you just said above.
Eating meat gets you the fats and vitamin D etc. All that pretty much can be obtained from vegetarian food to. Much of that is not available in Russia, which is a different thing. BUT if you are eating meat, how is it "RUSSIAN CUISINE"??? Germans eat meat in cold climate too. So does rest of Europe!! What is so "russian" in killing a cow and eating it up?
Again, the answer is beating about the bush and not going to the point.

"I invited some of my russian guests in New Delhi to taste butter chicken with authentic Indian preparation and they were totally blown away. They said they never tasted chicken so so good!!"

No one's ever considered Indian food as bad.

There is a cuisine. If you ever come to India, I'd love you to accept my hospitality. Thanks.

"The mind that knows so much in detail about your culture and cuisine and about its own too is certainly not limited, because that takes life's experience, observation and knowledge."

The mind is limited when it is closed for new things, one can read hundreds of works of classic writers but call them crap.

- Again, I never called it "crap". That's like putting words in my mouth. Generally speaking, yes the mind can be considered limited if it's closed for newer things. Would you try the Indian chilli dish? Accustomed to mild taste, russians can't handle chillies. So yes its also a matter of taste and preference. But then the topic in discussion was 'russian cuisine'.
To be honest, I really wouldn't want to argue, for a simple reason that people in different places make things a certain way and prefer it a certain way. Eating is a matter of taste. But meat is made in similar way in Ukraine and Russia and in many other CIS countries. Not just that, it is made in similar way in many other countries too in europe. How is it "russian" then? Since one wants to take the credit of calling it 'russian', then it has to be unique to russia or it has to be the source and origin of that particular dish. It's not about copyright or patenting a dish.

Example: In India every state has its own food cuisine specialities, that you will not find in another country. For instance the dish: 'dhokla' is a dish special to the state Gujrat in India. You will not find this in all of asia, europe, america or elsewhere. Chhole Bhature is from Punjab. Dosa is from South India. You will not find anything similar to this anywhere else. This is unique to India. The Indian sweets are unique to India.
But you are telling me why russians need to eat meat in winter etc.


"Professional cooks have to serve a certain clientale. The dishes prepared do not have to be traditional."

True, if the audience wants something original - it gets something original, if one wants a traditional dish, he goes to a traditional restaurant. But the dishes, of course, can be either traditional or author’s. However, a trully professional chef must know and be able to cook traditional recipes.

- That's alright about professional chefs/ cooks. Again, enumerated dishes before form a part of day to day normal russian cuisine.
People eat 'grechka'. Most foreigners don't like it. There is no preparation method. boil it or fry it a bit afterwards and eat with something. Simple. You may like it well. But so do Ukrainians eat grechka. So do some other nationalities. Nothing so russian about it really.
Beef is beef. Pork is pork.

"A journalist's research capabilities and skills make him good for his mostly neutral opinion that are far from limited. I don't have to be a top notch culinary expert of a country to comment and notice simple things in life and cuisine. It's what is wide spread in the people. This can be clear and well observed by a willing and observable eye."

I haven't heard your neutral opinion yet, only likes and dislikes. To give an OBJECTIVE opinion, one has to be a professional.

- I gave my objective opinion well. I don't have to praise everything to sound it objective. Didn't I say, I like some russian dishes and eat them too in Russia and I have liked some confetti? I have also mentioned that eating is a matter of taste and preference that you are used to. But to most outsiders the russian food is not very delicious and is bland and plain. This is an objective opinion. It may sound neutral to you, it I say its great. But like or not like is not the topic.
Russian Cuisine is.


"This is home cooking and home cooking is traditional cooking and not what restaurants serve in a hyped manner."

Absolutely true. And home cooking itself can be: a) bad home cooking b) good home cooking. One cannot judge the whole cuisine by a result of attempts of a housewife who cannot cook.

- Right. But a blin is a blin. All you can do with it is smear it with honey, caviar, or something else.. kartoshka remains kartoshka. Anyways, Russians love caviar. So do the French. Caviar on bread. A dish. What's the preparation?? Put the salty lump on bread and eat.


"Restaurants have to sell their stuff, so they hype it up."

Also true. Restaurants have to make money. Restaurants are for gourmets and do not exist without chefs. But chefs, besides working in restaurants, also do research works, write articles and publish books on culinary, some try to save the traditional recipes, some promote recipes of their authorship, some do both.

- It's not a mater of writing books and making recipes. You know in India there is a vegetable dish called "sabji". Some people experimented and put the veggies on pizza base and made an Indianised pizza. Can we call this pizza Indian now? You guess the answer.

"Pelmeni - commercial or not, there is nothing so russian in it!! Its the same floor wrapped meat ball. No special preparation. I can show you the same pelmeni in traditional north east of India. They have been eating it for centuries!!"

Yes. And there is nothing Italian in ravioli. And nothing Japanese in gyoza. Why visit an Italian restaurant for pasta if I can have Chinese noodles, right? There is no point to mention that Siberian pelmeni are made of at least three kinds of meat, the dough is made on ice instead of water, the size and form must be of some certain standard...

- Well at least the name does sound Italian..!
SIberians make pelmeni on ice instead of water, cuz that's what they have. Right. So some making methods vary. And yet, its the same pelmeni. We call it Momos. If you taste it, you will be astonished on the start similarity.
Alex, one thing is good in this discussion - we both may have to learn something from each other about each other's cuisine. I appreciate this.

“Yes. Nothing much really grows in there and there are no really elaborate developed preparations. The food is plain and simple. At times, I like some of the russian food too and find it good. But most Indians will find it too simple and plain.â€￾

Tastes differ.

- Yes.

“The point is that what is the original cuisine and preparation methods of that country which are unique and original to it only!!!â€￾

So now there are patents in culinary? When different cultures use same techniques, does that mean one rips off another???

- No it doesn't. It's a free world and people learn from each other, like others' tastes and adapt or take something from them. That's fine.
But you have to be original to call it yours, isn't it?

“There is the Chinese cuisine that is authentic to China - born and developed there. There is Indian cuisine - South Indian and North Indian - born and developed there only, unlike anything else, anywhere else! There is Italian cuisine, there is French Cuisine for example too. That's what I'm talking about. I can name hundreds of dishes that are original and unique to India alone.â€￾

There is Chinese cuisine, French, Indian, Italian but there is no Russian cuisine and everything made for centuries is nothing. Nice. Hitler would applause.

Umm.. I'm just trying to understand .. I am trying not to sound offish or offensive in any way, because I do not intend to be that way. Everything made for centuries, is not unique to russia. The bliny are not so unique. Pancakes have been around. Russian ones maybe thinner, others may prefer thicker. Pretty similar or same.
Having said that, I don't mean to be mean or say I don't like or appreciate.

“Which Europeans bought them? Were they chocolate critics, chocolate makers, experts? he he a similar question was posed by the russian gentleman defending russian cuisine.â€￾

European folks from the countries with strong chocolate culture - Switzerland, Belgium and France. And the fact that people, who has tried excellent examples of hand made chocolate, admire the quality of Russian chocolate too, means a lot. Note, i did not say they had stopped eating chocolate made in their countries, they only had put Russian chocolate in their top list.
- if that was the case, i.e. europeans put russian chocolate in their top list, then I would be seeing it being sold in places like Germany and other European cities, countries.. I never saw any. There are people interested in others' cultures. For example I've been interested in Russian culture and have appreciated many aspects of it. Similarly there can be people coming to Russia from Europe for sight seeing and buying their chocolate to try it out, take back as gifts etc. That's nice.

“IF one particular traditional thing is grosser, then its what it is.â€￾

I didn’t say modern technologies improved the taste of chocolate. They only make it easier to bring it to the market and sell for a cheaper price. Quite a different aim.


“Besides, since it "shares" one school with the French chocolate, then its sole credit cannot go to russia. There is not enough russian in it either.â€￾

There are things that came to French cuisine from Italy and were adjusted to French taste and known as French nowadays and vise versa (from sauces to pastries), that’s normal practice if countries have close relationship (think of Franco-Russian cuisine, a great example of collaboration). Of course, if one wants something extremely unique and original - Russians can bake a bear for him.

- Ha ha ha..!! I like that one! How many russians are able to bake bears?! Did the early man bake raw animals to eat? Maybe find more examples of authentic unique russian cuisine. I'm trying to find one myself.



Isn’t Russian cuisine sophisticated enough? But it has never claimed to be sophisticated. As it’s never claimed to be the richest cuisine, the most complicated, neither most colourful. But it has never been bad. And saying that Russian cuisine does not exist... Well, that’s an ignorant spit into the face of the country (not just one nation, but into the face of a multi cultural country).

- See, I was feeling, you feel offended and are our defending it all. As explained before too, I never meant to offend anyone, not an individual, not a nation God forbid!!! Its not a spit into the face of anything. You are taking this too far!!!!!!! I appreciate the multi-cultural-ness of the country.

Aright so we can safely say that Russian Cuisine is something that is well used and liked by russians traditionally, but is also there in other countries and is not unique to russia and were not uniquely invented in Russia.


Russian cuisine serves its own purpose and is designed for some certain environment.


I can understand those who don’t like Russian food - they are not used to it, their organisms do not need such food, their tastes have been formed by different cultures, they miss home after all. But saying it’s crap (in your case, letting know it is) - well, I’m sorry, here you’ve gone too far. If one hasn’t tasted good examples of Russian cuisine (which includes lots of unique recipes of soups, snacks, main courses, pastries, desserts) - it only means he hasn’t tasted it, nothing more and nothing less.

- Alex, again and again, you are putting one word in my mouth - CRAP!! which I never used ever. Why are you doing that?
I simply asked you to tell me russian dishes that constitute part of authentic russian cuisine, that are unique to russia only!!
You didn't come up with any. All the "russian" dishes that I had enumerated in the first post to Winston, proved not unique to russia, even though they are considered to be traditional russian cuisine.
Does that translate as "crap" to you and that I've taken it too far? Is that objective neutral vision that you have talked about?

Again, eating is a matter of taste and preference, as you have also agreed.
Russian food as plain as compared to many others.
Do not translate and project this as me calling it "crap" and spitting at someone/something.
Topic of discussion was - what is a uniquely "russian" dish? Answer not clear.
Best Regards.
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Postby AlexeyPolarny » Wed Jul 11, 2012 2:05 pm

Ok, this turns into something time consuming. I appreciate you find some time to response but I cannot afford spending so much time on even reading them carefully (I'm sorry they are becoming too long however this is a very interesting topic).

Instead I can offer you some sources from which you can learn more about it:

http://kuking.net/c12.htm

http://supercook.ru/ussr-f/ussr-f-01.html

http://allcafe.ru/readingroom/kitchen/russian/173

http://www.ozon.ru/context/detail/id/7588957/

Good luck and thanks for your opinion anyway :)
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Postby AlexeyPolarny » Wed Jul 11, 2012 2:12 pm

By the way, don't forget about the history: even when calling borsch(t) Ukrainian - consider when and how the name Ukrain appeared and how that region was called previously (but I agree that regional Ukrainian borsch is better than Russian and Polish ones).
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Postby Winston » Thu Jul 12, 2012 10:50 pm

Alexey,
His response to your post and links:

"Hi Alexey!

Thanks for the links on russian culinary. Needless to say, both our exchanges of posts have generated some good interest in the topic and I believe both of us as well as many others got some food for thought, which in turn has promoted the russian cuisine in one way or the other. The links are interesting and I'm going through them. Some of the good things that I liked in russian culinary were the desert cakes. Russians make good cakes and pasteries. But the best cakes that I liked are the Malikov ones. This is a line of cakes and pastries started by my russian friends in Moscow. They are the spiritually minded Krishna devotees and are pure vegetarians which means that there are no eggs in the cakes and have a lavish fruit toping and are very light to eat. You could eat the whole cake without feeling heavy. If you are in Moscow, you gotta try these out available in any big supermarket !!! They also make the vegetarian soya sausages, instead of the traditional pig/beef sausages.
Happy eating!! ;)"
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Postby Winston » Thu Jul 12, 2012 10:55 pm

AlexeyPolarny wrote:By the way, don't forget about the history: even when calling borsch(t) Ukrainian - consider when and how the name Ukrain appeared and how that region was called previously (but I agree that regional Ukrainian borsch is better than Russian and Polish ones).


His response:

"Yes. I remember, Kieveskaya Rus. The history of Moscow, the center of present day Russia, as an established city is somewhere around 860 years.
Borsch has always been essentially Ukrainian as it develop there and there are 'narodnye metody' or local Ukrainian methods of of Borsch preparations. Also, nevertheless, Ukraine has maintained its own identity, despite the many similarities in culture and cuisine. Especially now, when the nationalist movements and cultural sentiments widened the differences amongst these nations. It certainly was better from that perspective, where Russia and Soviet Union were one group of multinational multi ethnical people without much conflicts of nationalities. To my mind, appreciation for others' culture should be there and mutual friendly exchanges are always helpful in growth and national, international harmony.
If we widen our horizon, we would come to the word Slavik and Slavyanskaya, that too has many similarities in features of people, culture and cuisines that again would bring the focus to the uniqueness or non uniqueness of russian foodin our discussion. The cuisine sites you sent praise russian food, as they focus on that. In view of an objective analysis, we can take into consideration all of slavik food, european food, and analyze on the same platform considering origin and development of dishes that are traditional to Russia.
I appreciate the sites you sent are useful and good for information on Russian food. Thanks for that.
This helps me appreciate the russian cuisine more.
We could also mention the world famous Russian vodka. There's even a song in russian "Russkaya vodka"..
I haven't really studied the origins of vodka, since I'm not a drinker. It's there in other european countries too, but its roots could well be traced to Russia I guess."
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Postby AlexeyPolarny » Fri Jul 13, 2012 4:27 am

Winston, thanks for posting replies!

If one wants to try authentic Russian food - he must go to villages where it is still alive (some of them still use Russian oven which actually formed the whole cuisine, as the method, called "томление" - slow cooking with constantly decreasing temperature, - was only possible in such construction).

About vodka - it originates from Poland, there is famous vodka from Finland. But unfortunately, vodka became the calling card of Russia.
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Postby terminator » Wed Nov 07, 2012 2:00 am

You can go to Russia as a tourist, but you'll find getting a long term visa or permission to work is Kafka-esque and basically impossible. The Govt workers will almost NEVER do their job because they hate their boss, life, career, family and can scapegoat you for all this.
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Re: Does Russian food exist? A critical analysis

Postby muscovites » Tue Jan 19, 2016 1:01 pm

Yes it does exist: Visit Top Russian Restaurant in Dubai - Its Muscovites
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