Russian cuisine has made it famous throughout the world for its first courses: Shchi, borsch, rassolnik, svekolnik, ukha. Most characteristic of Russian cuisine are bliny, solyanka, pelmeni, okroshka. Russia is popular for growing and harvesting their own crops and is highly dependant on the weather conditions due to short growing season. Bread has always been the central role in the Russian diet. Russians like dark, heavy rye bread.
If a foreigner is asked what 'Russian' is associated with, he would immediately report the following: vodka, bears, caviar, perogi (pies), Balalajka, borsch and so on.
Not all these food and drinks are true Russian. Vodka had been imported into Russia in the 14th-15th centuries from Italy and was banned for long time. As for caviar, it has always been expensive and served for holidays, thus can not be fully a characteristic meal of Russian cuisine, despite its being referred to as a Russian symbol.
These days, sales of black caviar are fully prohibited in Russia because of poachers who made sturgeon an endangered species! You can buy it illegally in almost every Moscow market, but please, please don't do it. First - you'll have serious problems with customs if you get caught, and second - you'll encourage criminal business.
Another tradition that is considered to be originally Russian is after-dinner tea ceremony. However tea in Russia was introduced in 1638. It became so popular that today is considered the de facto national beverage and one of the most popular beverages in the country Before that Russian traditional drinks were kvas, sbiten and medovukha, braga and pivo among alcoholic ones.
Many Russian meals with not originally Russian names appeared in Russian cuisine due to the French influence. They are bifshteks (beef steaks), escalope, langet.
During the Soviet times Russian cuisine was enriched by the cooking traditions of other nations that made Soviet republics. Shashlyk and pilaf has become known to every Russian and extremely popular in the Soviet Union and until now.
Russian food traditions are very old, and they absorbed lots of national dishes on the way. As Russia was expanding - so was its cookbook. Therefore these days, you can easily study Russian history right from the menu Russian meals hold ages of legacy - shaped by the very history of the country. In fact, many dishes haven't changed a bit. The only lack of Russian food is lots of calories. Our ancestors needed them to work a lot and keep warm. You can still find many light and healthy dishes. The choice is huge.
Meals in Russia are traditionally cooked from fresh food, people grow or still easily buy at local markets and cook regularly at home which makes the general diet healthy. However the growing problem of today's society is that Russians Like many countries, have grown accustomed to Western foods, such as fast food and soda and are abandoning healthier foods in favour of cheaper calorie-rich snacks.
Russians are used to eating 3 times a day.
ZAVTRAK - breakfast is usually a quick meal in the working week. Parents are likely to have an open sandwich with cheese, ham or salami with a cup of tea. The children tend to eat a cooked meal that consists of a boiled egg, omlette or kasha. Kasha is any cooked grain or cereal (eg.buckwheat) that is served with milk, sugar and butter.
OBED - lunch is the main meal of the day and is eaten between 1pm and 3pm. Obed starts with a small zakuska ( salt herring or some king of salad). It is followed by soup that is made from a homemade stock. If it is a chicken soup then a whole chicken will be put into the pot, if it is meat soup than a chunk of beef is simmered for two to four hours with vegetables, and is eaten with fresh vegetables, dried peas or beans, pats, rice or barley. The favourite soups are cabbage soup, Shchi, and Ukrainian beetroot soup, Borshch.
After soup the main course follows. Fish is a popular food and Russians prefer freshwater fish like carp and pike. If meat stews are eaten then they have flavourings of wild mushroom, pickled cucumber or smetana. Cabbage leaves, Golubtsy, are stuffed with meat and rice in a tomato sauce. Sosiski are frankfurter-type sausages and are also very popular. Meatball dishes are Kotleti, Bitochki, and Tefteli. The main course is served with potatoes, pasta, cereal, salt cucumbers, and are always served with bread.
Obed is finished with either coffee, tea, kompot (stewed fruit) or kisel (fruit juice thickened with cornflour).
UZHIN - is eaten with the family around the table and news is exchanged. Soup can be served again and the main course can be from vegetables like potato cakes with mushroom sauce or tvorog, cottage cheese. Tea or milk follows.
It would be interesting to read the impressions of foreigners about Russian cooking traditions, Russian meals and eating habits:
Mexican: The sales people in the stores and waiters in restaurants are rude. You can not even ask anything. So I often go to my friends for a visit, where got used to drinking beer with dried vobla. This is a totally unique combination I have not seen in any other country. First I did not dare taste it for its awful smell and look, but then got used to it. Beating vobla on the table to soften is very Russian style and merry thing to do. I am always amused at 'meat French style'. There is nothing French in it expect for the name of the meal. I have not seen roast slices of meet covered with tomatoes and grated cheese in France. The true Russian natural product is white sliced baton. Very tasty
Argentinian: We almost do not have breakfast in Argentina, but Russians can eat soup for breakfast. True gluttony. We also have suppers quite late, but in Moscow they usually have supper before 8 p.m. Russian food is very tasty, especially borsch and pelmeni. Not very original though, but tasty. I am not fond of local meet, though.
Chilean: Meat is the chief product in Russian nutrition. Russia is like a big piece of meat itself. The severe weather makes Russians refill themselves on protein to survive winter. I like shashlyk most of all. I also noticed that people do not abuse food like they do in the USA. Russians constantly drink tea. I have never seen anyone drinking do much tea. Even in clubs at 3 am they order a cup of tea. The drinking water is awful though.
British Australian: I like Russian dairy products a lot: ryazhenka (fermented baked milk), kefir, tvorog, varenets (boiled fermented milk) are absolutely delicious and unique. A milk soup is a very unusual meal I tried in Russia only. I made an attempt to cook it at home and failed. But Russians do not have a little notion of healthy nutrition. They add sour cream and mayonnaise to many meals. In general the cuisine is very caloric. I have to eat pelmeni quite often and I have to admit that they are tasty but not healthy meal. An English family can eat the same cornflakes for breakfast for half a year, but you have something new every day: tvorg, bliny, fried eggs, sandwiches.
French: The food we buy on daily basis in France is considered luxurious in Russia. Good cheese, meat and bread is sold in exclusive stores and cost much. However Russians have very tasty fish. I have never tried a better salmon then in Siberia. In France not many people can afford sea food, the prices for it are more moderate in Russia. Russians eat many soups and Russian food is much healthier then French.
German: Russian milk is impossible to drink. The taste is awful, like it is newly drawn not refined milk. Russian have crab sticks, I have never tried anything like this before. My girlfriend cooked a salad with crab sticks and said it is a traditional salad. I liked it. Russians eat soup as a main course. We have it as appetizer in Germany. We never eat hot food on breakfast, even omelette is too much. In Russia they can eat even a chicken for breakfast. I want to try kvas as was told a lot about it. I hope Germans would learn to cook Russian biscuits. Russian chocolate is horrible, it does not have a taste of chocolate.
Nigerian: There are tasty vegetables in Moscow. But not in supermarkets. I shop on big markets and enjoy fresh tomatoes, sweet pepper and beans all the week then. The rest of food is the same as everywhere
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