Russian Food Culture Explained in 4 Proverbs

Discover why anything can be wrapped up in a pirog

By Google Arts & Culture

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

What does it mean to be "like a cucumber"? And why can "everything be wrapped in a pirog"? Food has contributed to the Russian tongue with language as well as flavor! Scroll on to discover five foodie proverbs...

Bread by Alexander AverinFederal Agency for Tourism

1. "The Moscow kalach is not of their batch"

This old saying is a local boast, claiming that kalachi served in Moscow are fresh from the oven! Kalach is a traditional Eastern European bread whose name derives from the Old Slavonic word, kolo (коло) meaning "circle" or "wheel".

And this saying isn't the only linguistic contribution that kalachi have made in Russia. Did you know that the well-known Russian surname, Kalashnikov, means "son of one who makes kalachi"?

Codfish, from the Fish from American Waters series (N8) for Allen & Ginter Cigarettes Brands (1889) by Allen & Ginter|Lindner, Eddy & ClausThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

2. "No cod, no work"

"Cod eaters" was the name of the Pomors, those who live on Russia's coasts, until the 20th century. Murmansk Pomors shipped salted cod to the rest of Russia, and the Northern and coastal regions are still known for their hundreds of cod-based recipes.

"No cod, no work"  goes a local saying, and there are a multitude of cod dishes traditional to the Pomors...

Codfish soup by Alexander AverinFederal Agency for Tourism

...and if this codfish soup gets your mouth watering, click here to discover more dishes.

Pie by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

3. “Everything can be wrapped up in a pirog”

Maybe the fact that “Everything can be wrapped up in a pirog” is the clue to why this baked, wrapped dumpling or pie is considered perhaps the most important and popular dish in all of Russian cuisine.

And there truly are nearly endless types of pirog. They've been served with fillings such as potato, meat, cabbage, fish, berries, fruit, celery, boiled eggs, fried onion or “just so”, with sugar and butter and no filling.

Pancakes with ice cream and condensed milk by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

The rest of the dough delicacies, though, were greedily gobbled up by the festival-goers, and bliny have been served for centuries in Russia accompanied by meats, fishes, and other fillings. 

Gazpacho ingredientsReal Academia de Gastronomía

4. "Like a cucumber"

In America and Europe, you might hear someone described as being "cool as a cucumber". In Russia, the crisp, clean flavor of the vegetable means that if someone is "Like a cucumber” (Как огурчик ), they're energized and fresh.

Records are unclear as to when cucumber first appeared in Russia, but by the 15th century, it had clearly established itself as a staple of Russian cuisine.  

Cookmaid with Still Life of Vegetables and Fruit (c.1620-5) by Sir Nathaniel BaconTate Britain

The town of Suzdal launched a Cucumber Festival after a sentence in its earliest 18th-century historical record was found that read: “In the town of Suzdal, the goodness of the soil and the pleasantness of the air produce an abundance of onions, garlic and, above all, cucumbers.”

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