Traditional Cuisine Born in Fairy Tales

Russian fairy tale is an important part of staging the national culture and dining traditions. Get to know more about what are the gastronomy specials coming from fairy tales. “Some truth seen but by inward eyes”: is the way Pushkin chose to end his tale The Golden Cockerel.

By Federal Agency for Tourism

The Frog Princess (21st Century) by Proximity RussiaFederal Agency for Tourism

Fairy tales may seem outlandish,

 but some things in them are real, such as food. What do characters in Russian folk tales cook or feast on? Enjoy our selection of folklore dishes in this second part of the exhibit with the well-known Russian fairytales characters.

The Magical Geese Swans (21st Century) by Proximity RussiaFederal Agency for Tourism

'Rye Pirogi', pies from The Magical Geese Swans

The tale tells a story of a young girl in search of her brother abducted by geese swans. As she locates him and the kids head home, the magical birds launch a pursuit.The kids encounter, one after another, a stove, a river, and an apple tree who all agree to help hide them, but only if the girl does something in return, such as eating a rye pie.  

Jfk Wedding (1953) by Lisa LarsenLIFE Photo Collection

Pirogi are an indispensable part of the Russian cuisine. Baked in a stove or fried in butter, these were considered a treat for special occasions, such as a wedding, which called for a big round karavai or a chicken-and-potato kurnik, or a name day, unimaginable without a cabbage pie.

Buns (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

Poorer peasant families used darker rye flour, while those with more money to spare could afford white wheat. Fillings included cereals, vegetables, meat, fish, fruit or berries.

Smaller pies, called pirozhki or buns, were also popular. Sometimes, a coin would be placed  inside one of the buns as a token of luck for whoever should find it.

The Three Bears (21st Century) by Proximity RussiaFederal Agency for Tourism

'Pokhlyobka' Soup from The Three Bears

In 'The Three Bears' fairy tale a young girl wanders off in a forest and bumps into a house. Inside, she discovers a pokhlyobka soup waiting for her on the table. She finishes the soup right before the three bears, the owners of the house, come back.

Finding their meal gone, they get angry and decide to eat the girl, but she manages to escape through a window.

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

In the Russian cuisine, a pokhlyobka is light soup with vegetables and cereals. The broth for the soup should contain no meat, while a resulting variety is named after its chief ingredient, such as potato, cabbage or onion. 

Several pokhlyobka recipes replace broth with kvass, including okroshka, the summertime cold classic featuring diced meat and vegetables, or botvinya, which is made with grated sorrel, spinach, onions or nettle. 

The Gigantic Turnip (21st Century) by Proximity RussiaFederal Agency for Tourism

The Gigantic Turnip Fairy Tale

This simpler tale follows an old man who happens to grow an enormous turnip and needs to enlist the help of this entire family to pull it out of the ground. Turnips are some of the earliest vegetables to be cultivated in Russia, and one of the most available before the introduction of potatoes.

A choice of meal for the poor and the rich alike, the turnip doesn’t need much care and has a long shelf life.  

Turnip (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

Russians even say of something that is simple and needs little effort that it is ‘simpler than a steamed turnip’. It is in fact simple to cook.

You wouldn’t need to peel it, just wash and salt it before putting it in the stove. Turnips can be used to make shchi, they also may be fermented similar to sauerkraut. 

The Frog Princess (21st Century) by Proximity RussiaFederal Agency for Tourism

Traditional Bread from 'The Frog Princess'

Wishing to find suitable brides for his young sons, the Tsar commands each of them to shoot an arrow, follow it to where it lands and marry the woman who lives there. Prince Ivan tracks his arrow to a swamp and resigns himself to marrying the enchanted Frog Princess.

Once the brides have been found, the Tsar tasks them with completing several assignments, the first of which is to bake bread.

Rye bread (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

Bread plays a special part in the Russian cuisine due to the agricultural nature of Slavic life. The more popular and cheaper — although also heartier — variety was made of rye.

Richer people could buy more expensive breads like those produced from sifting flour or baked from high-quality wheat flour. 

Bread (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

Although rye bread was generally considered the cheaper option, there were several special varieties, including the boyar, that was baked to order in the freshest butter from specially milled flour, and then spiced.

One of the more popular varieties, Borodinsky, is produced from rye yeast and contains coriander and cumin. A popular origin version maintains that it was invented in the Spaso-Borodinsky Monastery built to honour those fallen in the Battle of Borodino during Napoleon's invasion of Russia. 

Kolobok (21st Century) by Proximity RussiaFederal Agency for Tourism

Kolobok Flour Dish

The 'Kolobok' folktale begins with an old man asking his wife to make him a dish called kolobok. This dough sphere comes to life and departs on an adventure. 

Kolobok is a flour dish that people in the Russian North still make from yeast-free dough, butter and sour cream. The dough was traditionally made of the cheaper barley flour. As with all barley flour products, kolobok will harden soon, so it needs to be consumed right after it is made.   

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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