Apr 282012

Classic Russian cuisine: at peak in 19th c.



Fish: rivers and lakes. Great Lent and fast periods (>1/2 year).

Forest: berries, mushrooms. Gathering mushrooms.


Pork. Mutton. Beef.


Cucumbers. Cabbage. Sweet preserves.

Fruit: preserves, dried.

Veggies. Potatoes. Grains.


Milk and dairy products (tvorog; buttermilk; sour cream). Eggs.

Influences from former republics: shashlyk; kefir; rice and lamb dishes, etc. Western influences.

Drink: wine; vodka; kvass. Tea (coffee).



Not a lot of spices. Onions, garlic, salt and pepper, dill, parsley, vinegar, horseradish, mustard. Sugar and honey.

Sharp, but not hot.

Tart, sour.

Not as sweet.


How prepared.

Russian stove: a lot baked, stewed, even today.

Not grilled, unless over campfire.

Soup and essential dish.

Cold summer dishes: cold buttermilk soup.


Some dishes.



Filled pastries.


Lenivyie vareniki.


Bread. Essential food.

White (wheat)

Black (mostly rye)

Gray (wheat and rye).

More substantial than American bread.


Family preparations:

Holiday foods.




Daily meals.

Breakfast: substantial. Bread with cold cuts; leftovers;

Midday meal: more than lunch.

Dinner: main meal.

Snacks: usually sweet.


Family gatherings.

Long meals – feast.

Sit around, eat, drink, talk, argue.

Any major holiday an occasion. Family holiday – extended family.

Always food offered to visitors (best for guests).

Dishes served one course at a time. Tradition adopted from Russian by West.


Festive meal:



Main dish: fish or meat, or both.




Custom established before 19th c. Possibly snacks for travelers before meal is ready.

Always a variety served. Served with bread.

Caviar (for the wealthy or connected)


Beluga (largest sturgeon)




Herring (schmaltz)

In mustard or sour cream sauce.

Oil and vinegar with onions.

Other fish, possibly from cans: eel, sardines, salmon (smoked), sturgeon

Cold cuts, sausages

Marinated mushrooms

Various pickles (cucumbers, cabbage, tomatoes, etc.), radishes.

Meat pies (pirozhki);

kulebiaka: fish pie.

Stuffed veggies

Served with vodka.



Shchi (sauerkraut soup)

Borshch (thick, stew-like, meat or meatless root-vegetable soup with cabbage and beets)

Ukha (fish soup)

Rassolnik: pickles and kidneys

Could be served with pirozhki or other savory baked goods.


Main course. Meat and/or fish. If wine is served, with main dish.

Pelmeni (a ravioli-style dish served with sour cream)

Kotlety (ground-meat patties, the same concept at meat loaf, but pan-fried)



Classic dishes: Beef Stroganoff (pieces of beef cooked in mustard-sour cream sauce served over buckwheat)




Cakes, cookies, pastries.

Cookies: pechen’e, different from US.

No such thing as crackers.

Kisel’ (“fools” – a kind of fruit custard)

Kompot (compote: cooked fruit in a mild syrup)


Seasonal dishes.

Bliny (savory, yeast-batter crepes served with butter, sour cream, and non-meat toppings)

Kulich. (Easter Bread, rich sweet bread baked in the shape of a tower)

Paskha. (Easter cheese dessert, not unlike crustless cheesecake)

Kut’ia. (Christmas dessert, poppy seeds, honey, nuts, and raisins)




Vodka. Introduced in 14th c. Mostly used for medicine until late 16th/17th c. Samogon. Home-made vodka, about twice as potent as the stuff sold in stores. Made from sugar or potatoes.


Before: mead, ale.

Vodka drunk straight. Not sipped. Always with food.

Plain or flavored.

Zubrovka (flavored with buffalo grass)

Pertsovka (flavored with red pepper)

Limonovka (flavored with lemon)


Wine: on the sweet side.

Beer: healthy alternative (not considered a strong drink).

Kvas. 1% alcohol. Made from rye bread, yeast, water, sugar; lightly fermented. Also used as base for soup.

Water: bottled rather than from tap.



Juice (bottled)

Milk and coffee drunk far less than in US (but kefir/buttermilk is)

Tea: always hot; sweet. Mostly at breakfast and “tea” or with snack.

Samovar is still used.

Glasses with holders used rather than mugs.

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