The Next Page Dish

Let’s take a brief tour of the daily lives and meals of classical Russian literary heroes from Chichikov in "Dead Souls" to Levin and Oblonsky from "Anna Karenina" to the gentry balls in "Eugene Onegin".

Foo Frui Non-Citrus Ind. Nolon Peach Pear Pineapple Plums Prunes GooseberriesLIFE Photo Collection

Igor Severyanin, “Pineapples in Champagne”

Planes are screeching above me! Automobiles are running!
Express trains whistling by and the yachts taking flight!
Someone's kissed over here! Someone elsewhere is beaten! 
Pineapples in champagne — the pulse of the night! 
( Ilya Shambat)

Pineapples in champagne (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

The idea for the poem came when the great Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky dipped a slice of pineapple in champagne and suggested that Igor Severyanin should do the same.

After it was published, "pineapples in champagne" became a set expression for a beautiful life that one can only dream of.

Anna KareninaMosfilm Cinema Concern

Leo Tolstoy, “Anna Karenina”

The efforts of Agatha Mikhaylovna and the cook to make the dinner specially nice resulted only in both the hungry friends sitting down to a snack and having to appease their hunger with ...

Anna Karenina (1951-09) by Peter StackpoleLIFE Photo Collection

... hors d'ceuvres of bread and butter, smoked goose, and pickled mushrooms, and in Levin's ordering the soup to be served without waiting for the pasties with which the cook intended to astonish the visitor.

But Oblonsky, though used to very different dinners, found everything delicious; the herb beer, the bread and butter, and especially the smoked goose and pickled mushrooms, the nettle soup and the fowl with melted-butter sauce, the Crimean white wine — everything was delicious, everything was excellent. (Transl. by Louise and Aylmer Maude)

Dish polotok (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

The Russian dish polotok, translated here simply as ‘goose’, meant in fact a half piece of salted, smoked or dried boneless poultry.

Popular in the 18th–19th centuries, when the absence of refrigerators meant poultry had to be slaughtered en masse to preserve the meat, polotok was usually goose preserved with salpeter. 

Nettle cabbage soup (shchi) and balyk (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

Nettle shchi was consumed around spring, when the plants are still young and less rigid and bitter. Sorrel would be thrown into the mix to add a touch of sour to the generally flat taste of the nettle.

Shchi is one of the oldest Russian soups, first mentioned in the 9th century when the Slavs began to farm cabbage. The centuries have turned it into somewhat of a cultural phenomenon.

Сabbage soup (shchi) (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

Shchi is part of many sayings and proverbs that illustrate its preeminence on the family menu or significance for a homely atmosphere. Russian travellers would sometimes pack frozen shchi to save time on cooking.

The Café "Greko" (1973) by Viktor I. Ivanov (1924)The Institute of Russian Realist Art (IRRA)

Nikolai Gogol, “Dead Souls”

The Chief of Police, sure enough, turned out to be a miracle worker.  No sooner had he heard just what was up than he had summoned a policeman, a spry lad in patent leather top boots, and, apparently, he had whispered but a couple of words in his ear and merely added, aloud: "Do you get it?" and, lo and behold!  

Composition with fish (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

 In a room adjoining the one where the guests were ardently at whist, there had already appeared a table, and on that table, salted sturgeon (the huge white variety), salted sturgeon (the ordinary variety), salmon (both smoked and salted),

caviar (both pressed and freshly salted), herrings, still a third species of sturgeon (the stellate), cheeses, smoked tongues, and dried-and-salted sturgeon fillets — all this had come in tribute from Fish Row. 

Pancakes with caviar (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

Then there appeared additional contributions from the master himself, the products of his kitchen: a fish-head pie, into which had gone the cartilage and head trimmings of a three-hundred-and-twenty-five-pound sturgeon; another pie with pepper mushrooms; fritters; dumpling boiled. ( Bernard Guerney)

Fish is an important part of the Russian cuisine. There are numerous ways to cook fish from stewing and frying it to salting, smoking, or baking it, using it as filling or as salad topping.

Fish was served in aristocratic houses, peasant huts and workers’ dorms, although while some feasted on the rare belorybitsa, others would have to make do with the cheaper Black Sea sprat. Today, Russia produces various fish varieties from northern whitefish salmon, muksun, omula, and nelma, to the Black Sea varieties of horse mackerel, mullet and goby.

Bakery products (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

From time immemorial, pirogi were a sign of hospitality and prosperity in Russia. This kind of traditional Russian pies was made predominantly with rye flour, as wheat was far more expensive.

The excerpt above mentions a great many kinds of pies including pryazhentsy or fritters with meat and onion filling, and maslyantsy, or small dumpling-like buns made with flour fried in boiling butter. 

Credits: Story

Сhief Сonsultant — Ekaterina Drozdova, restaurateur, gastronomic entrepreneur, food and social activist, Photo production — tm agency, Contributors — Proximity Russia, Denis Yershov, Alexandra Grigoryeva

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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