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comrades in the kitchen

a blog on Russian food and culture

Blinage Wasteland

“When Russians and English bite into a pancake, they bite into different national traditions.”

(“Introduction.” Food in Russian History and Culture. Ed. Musya Glants and Joyce Toomre. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1997. Xii. Print.)

Traditionally blini is prepared with buckwheat flour and yeast and is consumed during butter week or Maslenitsa. It is essentially a Russian mardi gras, the week of decadence and feasting before Lent (1), and according to NPR’s report on the event, organized fist fights and dancing bears are “not obligatory,” but also not uncommon. We didn’t technically make traditional blini, but cooking them still felt authentic because we worked with Liana Battsaligova, the Russian language assistant for Grinnell. Her confidence and previous culinary experience made us feel like we knew what we were doing. The blini itself was very interesting to prepare; using only simple ingredients, we turned what could have been basic into a divine russian treat.

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup sugar (adjust to taste)
  • 4 ½ cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½  tsp salt
  • ½ gallon of milk
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • sour cream
  • jam

In a large mixing bowl, whisk four eggs with a spoon, making sure not to mix them too much. In this recipe, we added about half a cup of sugar (our pro, Liana, eyeballed it), but depending on what the blini will be stuffed with, the amount can be adjusted. For example, when making savory blini, less sugar is appropriate; sweeter blini would need more. When the sugar has been adequately mixed, add about four and a half cups of flour to the bowl (also eyeballed) and create a well in the middle of the pile. Add the baking soda and salt. Preferably, the flour, baking soda, and salt would be sifted together into the bowl; however, we diIMG_5046dn’t have a sifter in our wonderfully cramped communal kitchen, so we couldn’t. Pour a small amount of milk into the well and stir until there are no lumps. Keep doing little by little this until about half of the gallon is in the bowl. Liana likes to add half a cup of oil directly to the batter so that less butter is necessary for keeping the blini from sticking to the frying pan. She also usually adds a cup of boiling water for aesthetic reasons, but our stove was being uncooperative and wouldn’t heat up, and so our poor blini weren’t as pretty as they could’ve been. Once the stove decides to work, turn it on medium high, and add some butter to a hot frying pan. If the butter turns brown, turn down the heat. Ladle the batter into the pan and swirl it like an omelette or crepe so it’s spread thinly and evenly on the pan. The edges of the blin (singular) will start to lift from the pan when it’s ready to be flipped. Cook the other side for about 45 seconds, depending on how hot the stove is.

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The Russian proverb, “the first pancake is always a lump,” only rang partially true in our case because Liana is a goddess of blini; the first pancake was only slightly less beautiful than its younger siblings. After accumulating a satisfactory stack of blini, relax and sit down to enjoy your creation. We stuffed ours with raspberry jam and the traditional sour cream, but fillings can range from caviar to Nutella.

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You too could be having this much fun!

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(1) Lent is a Catholic tradition in which the participants abstain from meat, fish, dairy, and sometimes alcohol for 40 days in order to prepare for Easter.

References:

Rolek, Barbara. “How to Make Traditional Russian Buckwheat Blini for Pancake Week.” About.com. About Food, n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2015.

Godoy, Maria. “It’s Russian Mardi Gras: Time For Pancakes, Butter And Fistfights.” NPR. NPR, 14 Mar. 2013. Web. 12 Oct. 2015.

“Introduction.” Food in Russian History and Culture. Ed. Musya Glants and Joyce Toomre. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1997. Xii. Print.

Stolichniy Salad

Recipe transcribed by Jeremy, Vincent, Edward, and Megan


The aroma of Shchi still lingers in the air, but our second cooking day has already come and gone! While hearty Shchi always tastes better the next day, we are now taking on the task of preparing something that can be made and enjoyed right away. Our recipes for this week, Bliny Pancakes and Stolichnyj Salad are two recipes that would serve most effectively as sides or breakfast foods, and will provide you with some energy on those weary Sunday mornings when your hangover has got your head throbbing and the D-Hall isn’t open until lunch.

Our group prepared Stolichnyj Salad, a Russian potato salad that also goes by a range of eclectic nicknames, including “Capital Salad,” in honor of its Moscow origins, and the all-popular “Olivier Salad,” for its rumored creator (Wilson, Kushcova 1). Since the salad is a plentiful source of carbs, it was often served as the first dish in a multi-course dinner so as to hopefully fill up the guests a bit and allow the host to avoid preparing larger quantities of expensive dishes. Beyond its nutritional capacity, Stolichnyj Salad had an even greater meaning to Russian culture. As author Russian author Anna Kushcova describes “Olivier salad invariably served as a “common denominator,” awakening…memories of a varied complex of relationships that formed around its preparation and consumption—familial celebratory customs, Soviet culinary culture as a whole and the distinction between it and the culinary traditions of other countries, as well as the changes that have taken place in that culture over the last ten to fifteen years” (Kushcova 45).

Before we dive in, it bears mentioning that the salad has spread in some form or other all over the world. As an icon of the Soviet experience, the salad has stood the test of time, enduring changes in culture, diet, and multicultural cuisine following the decline of the Soviet Union (Kushcova 1).  As such, countless variations exist.  For instance, Ensaladilla Rusa (which is often prepared with shrimp!) is a classic Spanish dish (Aloise). A rather extravagant revision for the classic Russian palate considering the rarity of shellfish (Stevens)! When the ingredients and proportions are changed, the salad takes on a completely different flavor. We are calling our recipe “Grinnell Stolichnyj;” you may want to make changes to reflect your own preferences.


Ingredients:

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  • 7 eggs
  • 7 lb. of potatoes
  • 1 1/2 lb. of carrots (8-9 medium sized carrots)
  • 3 pickles
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups of mayonnaise
  • 1 can of sweet peas
  • 3 green onion stalks
  • 8 oz. of ham or 1 large, pre-cooked chicken breast (depending on preference)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

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  1. Fill one medium pot with water and bring to a boil (Hint: Leave around 2-3 inches of space in pot to prevent water from boiling over). 12043746_949194371842282_206700419_o
  2. Carefully add eggs to the pot and allow them to cook for 5-8 minutes, or until hard-boiled. Let eggs cool completely and then peel off shells (roll eggs first, then pinch off shells).
  3. Fill another, large-sized pot with water. Add potatoes to boiling water and let them cook for roughly 10 minutes. (Tip: Use a fork to check for doneness. Potatoes should be slightly resistant, but fork should still come out easily). Following a similar process, cook carrots.12043722_949194471842272_2014325149_o
  4. Peel skin off potatoes and then cube into small, bite sized-pieces (roughly 1.5 cm wide). Cut ends off of carrots and cut into similarly sized pieces (1.5 cm). Cube eggs and pickles as well. Combine potatoes, carrots, pickles, and eggs into one, large mixing bowl.
  5. Add mayonnaise, sour cream, and green onions to bowl. Depending on your preference, add in your cubed meat of choice. Mix until thoroughly combined.11982552_949141098514276_915387232_o
  6. Last but not least, drain the can of sweet peas and mix into salad. Be careful not to break up the peas too much – they’re best when served intact!
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Impressions:

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Though the salad was certainly tasty, it lacked the outsized Russian personality we were expecting. It seemed like a typical potato salad rather than a grand dish once adopted by a celebrated French chef. The addition of peas and sour cream that distinguishes stolichnyj from American potato salad hardly altered the overall taste, and the effect of replacing some of the traditional mayonnaise with sour cream was to give it a more subdued flavor.  That said, stolichnyj salad is still a fine dish!  The presence of pickles was noticeable and it added a new dimension to our idea of potato salad. We would gladly recommend it to anyone looking for a light meal or a side dish, just be aware that it will not come as a totally novel experience to American tastebuds.  We recommend wrapping it in a freshly flipped Blini to bring a little more excitement to the table!

References:

  • Stevens, Bradley. King Crabs of the World: Biology and Fisheris Management. Baco Raton: CRC Press. Google Books. 2014. Web. 3 November 2015.
  • Aloise, Lauren. “Ensaladilla Rusa Recipe (Russian Potato Salad)”. Spanish Sabores. 4 April 2013. Web. 3 November 2015.

  • Wilson, Josh, and Nesterov, Andrei. “Olivier Salad: A Russian Holiday Tradition”. The School of Russian and Asian Studies. 14 December 2010. Web. 2 November 2015.
  • Kushkova, Anna. “At the Center of the Table: The Rise and Fall of the Olivier Salad.” Russian Studies in History. 50:1, 49-56. 2011. Web. 2 November 2015.

Blin with Envy

During the Russian spring festival Maslenitsa, delicious bliny are made in abundance. In prior pagan traditions, a blin represented the sun, but in Russian Orthodoxy they contribute to feasting before the fasting of Lent. (p.56-58, Gil) They are similar in appearance to the French crêpe, but the resemblance stops there. Bliny are typically made slightly thicker than crêpes and with buckwheat flour to complement the taste of the caviar, salmon, or herring they are frequently stuffed with, which is vividly depicted in Chekhov’s short novel:

    “Finally, the cook arrived with the bliny. At the risk of scorching his fingers, Semyon Petrovitch snatched up two of the hottest from the top of the pile and slapped them onto his plate with gusto. The bliny were crisp, lacy, and as plump as the shoulders of a merchant’s daughter. Podtikin smiled affably, hiccupped with pleasure, and doused the bliny in hot butter. Then, as if to tease his appetite, luxuriating in anticipation, he slowly, deliberately heaped them with caviar. He poured sour cream over the places the caviar left bare. Now he had only to eat, right? Wrong! Contemplating his creation, Podtikin was not quite satisfied. After a moment’s thought, he topped the bliny with the oiliest slice of salmon he could find, and a sprat, and a sardine; then, no longer able to hold back, trembling with delight and gasping, he rolled up the two bliny, downed a shot of vodka, wheezed, opened his mouth – and was struck by an apoplectic fit.” (p.140)

Our budget and palate objected somewhat to the caviar, so we topped our bliny with raspberry jam and sour cream. But don’t be afraid to experiment! Once you’ve mastered the blin, you’re essentially a professional chef. Trust us.

Bliny (блины)

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cups flourEggs, flour, oil, butter, baking soda, salt, sugar, bowls
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ gallon milk
  • ½ cup sunflower oil
  • Butter
  • Raspberry jam
  • Sour cream

Steps:

  1. Beat the eggs in a bowl, but not too much. You don’t want them to be overly runny.Unwhisked eggsWhisked eggs
  2. Add sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix.Egg, flour, sugar, and baking soda mix
  3. Make a small “volcano” indent in the batter in the middle of the bowl and slowly add the milk. Do not add too quickly or the batter will become soaked and hard to work with in the pan.Pouring the milk into the batter mixture
  4. Put the oil in the batter. This will strengthen the thin crust of the bliny and discourage pan sticking. If preferred, the oil may be poured directly into the pan.Pouring the oil into the batterOil–batter mixture
  5. Heat up the pan (of any desired size) to medium heat. Keep the pan hot can avoid pan sticking, but at the same time, you don’t want to make it too hot and turn your butter black. Put in a desired amount of butter.Mixing bowl and various frying pansButtered pan
  6. Pour in the batter from the top of the pan and allow it to spread and create a thin layer.Beginning to fry a blin
  7. Allow the batter to brown and harden (around 30-45 seconds) and then flip and do the same to the other side.Multiple bliny cookingA blin frying
  8. The first blin is usually the least successful one, so taste it and find out whether to add more milk, sugar, or salt.
    Anna trying the blin batter
    Anna trying the blin batter

    Everyone grabbing the first blin
    Everyone wants a taste!
  9. Repeat steps 6-7 for the remaining batter. Additional butter may be added to the pan as desired.A large blin frying
  10. Serve with jam and sour cream.Bliny, sour cream, and jamPreparing a blin
  11. Enjoy!Alec posing with his nice blinAlec, Vincent, and Waez enjoy their blinyGemma loves her blin!

References:

“On Mortality: A Carnival Tale”. The Undiscovered Chekhov: Forty-Three New Stories. Anton Chekhov. Trans. Peter Constantine. Seven Stories Press: New York. 2000. Print.

Encyclopedia Of Jewish Food. Marks Gil. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. Print

 

Capital Salad

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Capital Salad, or stolichnyj is a Russian salad traditionally served at New Years. It originated in Moscow, which is where it got its name. Like many Russian dishes, it is composed mostly of root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots. Like shchi, recipes vary greatly between locations and groups of Russia, but peas are the essential part of Russian stolichnyj. This meal was usually served first during a Russian dinner so that it could help fill up the appetite so when the more expensive dishes were presented, a smaller quantity was eaten. 

Preparation Time: 1 hour

Yield: 15-20 servings

Ingredients 

7 eggs

7 lb. of potatoes

1 1/2 lb. of carrots

3 pickles

1 1/2 cups of mayonnaise

1 cup of sour cream

1 can of peas

8 oz of ham

1 large chicken breast along

3 stalks of green onions

Utensils

Cutting board

various sized knives

spoon for stirring

2 bowls

Preparation

1. Bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil, and cook the eggs for 7-9 minutes. Peel them after they are cool enough to handle.

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2. Use a larger sized pot of boiling water to cook the potatoes for until cooked but still firm (about 10-15 minutes). Repeat with the carrots

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3. Cube the potatoes, carrots, and eggs and put them into a mixing bowl. Add the mayonnaise and sour cream to taste. Mix thoroughly.

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4. Chop the meat and add it along with the peas (peas last so they don’t get broken up) to different bowls since we split the meat up into two separate batches.

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This dish can be made for fast days if the meat is omitted.

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Thoughts

Although the salad was tasty, it was fairly bland. To us it needed more seasoning as it was monotonous to eat. Potentially adding two different seasoned meats to the same bowl would be better.

by Gemma, Zach, and taller Alec

Citations:

Kushkova, Anna. “At the Center of the Table.” Taylor & Francis. N.p., 9 Dec. 2014. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2753/RSH1061-1983500103&gt;.

Levkane, V., S. Muizniece-Brasava, and L. Dukalska. “Popularity of ready-to-eat food-salad with mayonnaise in the local market.” 4th Baltic Conference on Food Science and Technology, Foodbalt-2009. Lithuania, Kaunas. 2009.

Vladimirsky, Irena. “Project MUSE – In Search of the Self: Reconciling the Past and the Present in Immigrants’ Experience by Larisa Fialkova and Maria Yelenevskaya (review).” N.p., Apr. 2014. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=%2Fjournals%2Fab_imperio%2Fv2014%2F2014.4.vladimirsky.html&gt;.

Shchi (щи) recipe by Rachel, Alec W. and Hadley

Shchi (Russian: щи) is a cabbage soup of Russian origin. While there are a wide variety of ingredients that can be used to make shchi, it generally must contain cabbage. Typically, it has a sour taste — emphasized in our recipe by the presence of sauerkraut and pickle. A variety of meats such as beef, pork, or fish can be added to introduce a more hearty element to this dish. Shchi developed alongside Orthodox Russian traditions, so meat was often omitted from the meal for fasting periods. Shchi tastes best when it is allowed to simmer for hours after all the ingredients are in the pot, allowing for the individual flavors to mesh into a tangy, sour taste. I’m not a big fan of cabbage or pickles, but the finished product didn’t seem to contain those characteristic flavors, instead creating a unique, sharp zest.

Shchi (щи)

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Yield: 8-12 bowls

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Total time: 3 hours

Ingredients

  • 1 green cabbage
  • 5 bouillon cubes
  • 8 cups of water
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2–4 potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • ⅓ jar of sauerkraut
  • Black pepper for taste
  • 1 pickle
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Quantities of ingredients may be altered depending on preference

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  1. Put bouillon cubes in the water, then heat water to a boil.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  2. Chop up the cabbage and carrots. Skin the potatoes.
  3. Sauté the carrots and the onions until translucent in a pan with some vegetable oil.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  4. Put all of the chopped ingredients into the pot.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  5. Add sauerkraut and chopped pickleOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  6. Add grated garlic and black pepperOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  7. Continue stirring for 20 minutes.
  8. Allow soup to simmer for a few hours. The longer the better! Add sour cream and serve.
  9. Don’t forget to clean up your kitchen!

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Yesterday’s Shchi

Recipe Transcribed by Jeremy, Vincent, Edward, and Megan

Three weeks ago, we were hit by the annual campus-wide grumble, better known as Back-To-School day. Now school is back in full swing and, once again, the dining hall is filled with starving students. However, in the midst of the chaos, there are still days when the monotony of P-Card swipes gets to be too much and when the grand treks to the JRC feel too far …. And, for days like these, we have the perfect dish: Yesterday’s Shchi.

Shchi, or cabbage soup, is a classic Slavic recipe.  It’s popularity may stem from its relatively simple preparation and adaptability to available ingredients.  And because Shchi just gets better and better the longer it is cooked, Shchi is a dish best prepared well in advance of consumption.  It is served hot or cold, with or without meat; indeed, a good Shchi will reflect its chef’s palate. We’re sharing our recipe for Shchi, but don’t be afraid to experiment and develop your very own recipe!

Ingredients: 

4

  • 1 head cabbage
  • 6 carrots
  • 5 potatoes
  • 3 onions
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 mushroom bouillon cubes
  • 3 vegetable bouillon cubes
  • ½ jar of sauerkraut
  • 3 pickles
  • 1 bunch of chives
  • Parsley to taste
  • Garnishes (sour cream, chives, warm bread)

Directions: 

5

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  1. Add bouillon to 2-3 quarts of water and bring to a boil
  2. Dice onions and saute until translucent
  3. Add chopped cabbage to pot, make sure pieces are small enough for spoon
  4. Grate carrots and saute
  5. Cube potatoes and add to pot
  6. Cube tomatoes
  7. Add sauerkraut to potIMG_8233
  8. Add tomatoes to pot
  9. Grate pickles
  10. Peel garlic and grate into pot
  11. Chop chives and parsley
  12. Be patient and let stew for 2 hours+. Taste along the way and adjust flavors accordingly (may need to add more bouillon, pickle, or sauerkraut).

Impressions:

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Although our broth was prepared without meat, it was hearty enough to stand as a satisfying meal all on its own. The cabbages, potatoes and tomatoes grew soft and tender after hours of cooking. Nonetheless, each individual ingredient was easily distinguishable. Other ingredients, like carrots, dill, and pickles melted into the soup, and while their flavors were less prominently featured, they gave the stew’s taste additional nuance. A generous dollop of sour cream provided a nice tangy flavor, appropriate for the warm weather we dined in.

Before you dig in to your own Shchi, lean over the cookstove; remove the pot lid, slowly, as if you were undressing your new bride for the very first time.  Allow the escaped aromas to mingle in your nostrils in a peppery cloud; do not greedily inhale them all at once. After slurping your first spoonful, your body will vibrate with waves of warmth.  After a bowl or three, you’ll be jovial for the rest of the day.  For those living in the frigid Motherland, as well as for those bogged down with the D-Hall blues, Shchi is the perfect treat.

Oh No Shchi Didn’t!


“Come on, enjoy the good things here,

And let the hostile spirits vanish…”

-Gavrila R. Derzhavin, “Invitation to Dinner”

Going into the first cooking day, we all felt a little apprehensive about cooking and eating what we assumed would be pungent, sour, and reminiscent of Soviet-era dreariness. However, shchi is only one of these–sour–and in the best way possible. On that fateful Thursday morning, we banded together as comrades and attempted to recreate not only a staple Russian meal, but an integral part of Russian culture. It turns out Russian culture tastes a little bit like a Big Mac®.

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Fully assembled shchi ready to cook!

Ingredients

  • Water (preferably Anna’s tears; sink water is fine if Anna’s new phone has arrived)
  • Bouillon Cubes- 2 mushroom, 3 vegetable
  • 1 Large Onion  
  • Cabbage
  • 6 Medium Potatoes
  • 6 Medium Carrots
  • 3 Pickles
  • 2 Medium Tomatoes
  • Vegetable oil
  • ⅓ Jar Sauerkraut
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • ½ Teaspoon Pepper
  • Sour cream, chives, and dill to taste
  1.  Fill a large soup pot about halfway full with water, and add bouillon cubes.We added three mushroom based bouillon cubes and three vegetable based bouillon cubes. This shchi is good for fast days, and is therefore vegetarian- chicken or other meat based bouillon might be better suited for an everyday shchi.
  2. 11998171_974050389319064_1729876774_n
    An action shot of the preparation.

    Turn the heat on medium and start cooking the broth.

  3. Finely chop one large onion and saute until translucent before adding to the broth.
  4. Grate the carrots and fry until brown, then add to the soup.
  5. Cut the cabbage in half and core it before chopping and adding to the pot.
  6. Peel and cube the potatoes, then add to the soup.
  7. Chop the tomatoes and add to the shchi.
  8. Grate 3 pickles and add to the pot
  9. Add about  third a jar of sauerkraut.
  10. Season with a small bunch of minced chives, parsley, and dill as well as one clove of finely grated garlic and half a teaspoon of black pepper.

Shchi you later by Alec, Zach, and Gemma

Shchi is a staple dish of Russian cuisine. It may be made in a variety of ways, and evolved over the years as new food started appearing in the Russia. It may be made with or without meat—this recipe is vegan.

Shchi

Ingredients:

Water

Broth Concentrate

6 medium Potatoes

1 headCabbage

2 medium-large tomatos

3 medium Onions

Carrots

1/3 jar sauerkraut

3 pickles

1 clove of garlic

Black pepper

Chives

Parsley

Salt to taste

Utensils:

Large stew pot

Knives to cut vegetables (a ceramic knife will not adulterate the flavor of the cabbage)

cutting board

Steps:

  1. Bring the water to a boil in a pot, and add the broth concentrate.
  2. Chop the potatoes, tomatoes, and cabbage, and put it in the pot.IMG_8225
  3. Grate pickles, and garlic, and put it in the pot.IMG_3964
  4. Peel, grate, and fry the carrots, and put them into the pot.
  5. Chop the chives, parsley, and put them into the pot.
  6. Put some salt in to taste
  7. Let simmer for a few hours.

Our Thoughts

Although the meal is a conglomeration of different foods, each is very distinguishable.

Serve with sour cream and good company. Prijatnovo appetita!

Shchi da Kasha, Pisha Nasha – Shchi and Kasha, That’s our Fare

By now you’ve had some experience, be it cooking or eating, with shchi, which some might say is a quintessential introduction to Slavic flavors and methods of food preparation. It’s an extremely colloquial dish, so much so that Darra Goldstein, author of A Taste of Russia: A Cookbook of Russian Hospitality, labeled it “overwhelmingly Russian.” This is in addition to it being acknowledged by many others as the Russian national dish, or at the very least a staple of Russian eating with centuries of history, and its presence in the old Russian proverb which takes the title of this post. Since shchi is something of a cultural landmark with such a broad history, it serves as an effective and intimate window into the Russian experience, and more specifically the Russian relationship with food access.

You’ve already read a little bit about shchi in Joyce Toomre’s introduction to A Gift to Young Housewives, so let’s start there. I think a good way to begin this discussion is with a Google Books review of Classic Russian Cooking which eloquently begins and ends with the words “interesting history, unusable recipes.” Flipping through the cookbook, you might find yourself in a similar frame of mind (or at least I did). Keep in mind that this cookbook was revisited by Molokhovets over 20 times between 1861 and 1914, and was extremely popular nationwide. That said, these so-called “Classic Russian” recipes don’t feel like the kinds of dishes that the average Russian citizen in the 1900’s would be able to afford. They are heavily influenced by access, be it to ingredients or servants. Even today, with modern cooking tools and overloaded supermarkets, the recipes are almost unusable due to the difficulty of preparing, or much less finding the ingredients. In returning to shchi–which as you know is a dish with very humble ingredients and relatively simple methods of preparation–we see that Molokhovets has a recipe in line with her book’s bombasticism. It is as follows:

2 pounds beef

1 pound ham
-3-4 dried mushrooms

-2 onions
-allspice
-1 lb sauerkraut

-bouillon*

-peppercorns
-sour cream
-bay leaves

While this recipe may look pretty basic, I put a very heavy asterisk on “bouillon,” as it leads us to the beginning of the soup section. As you saw while skimming this chapter, the “proper” method of cooking bouillon includes i. utensils for bouillon,ii. the quality of the meat, iii. instructions for juicy meats, iv. quantity of the beef, v. quantity of water, vi. the order of cooking, vii. Scum, viii. Root Vegetables, ix. The amount of salt, xii. how to correct unsavory bouillon resulting from interior cuts of meat, xiii. How to color a clear bouillon, xiv. To clarify bouillon, and finally xv. The kinds of beef usually used. This accounts for about half of the actual instruction. Its recipe is:

-3 lbs beef

-15 glasses of water

-3 teaspoons salt

-1-2 carrots
-1 parsley root

-1/2 leek
-1/2 celery root

-1/2 rutabaga
-1 Dried mushroom

-1 onion
-handful of dill

As you can see this recipe, in a classic book which defines much of Russia’s food culture, is, to say the least, over the top. However, that is not to say that this is the only method of cooking shchi known to Russians. The recipe has thousands if not millions of iterations–all delicious, of course–which are less lavish. That said, access consistently plays an important role. For example, and this may sound familiar, tomatoes were introduced to shchi early in the 20th century to augment the basic sourness of the soup. However, tomatoes proved to be a difficult ingredient in Russia, as the climate in most areas did not lend itself to tomato growth. Thus, tomatoes in shchi was an innovation only available for those who could afford to keep, grow, and buy tomatoes. The idea of shchi was changing but only really in the upper classes, illustrating how access plays an important role in the definition of Russian food culture. Because of shchi’s proliferation, its cultural importance, and its flexibility as a recipe, I think it provides an extremely interesting lens into how access shaped and continues to shape Russian cooking, and I’m very glad you all had a chance to experience its preparation.

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