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My Favorite Russian Food

As Lynn Visson's "Wedded Strangers" states:

“If you have been lucky enough to be invited to a Russian household, you will experience the famous Russian hospitality. The feast is kind of a war between host and guests. There has to be at least six appetizers including salads, smoked fish, pate, deli meats, cheese, meat and potatoes, soup, and something sweet, usually cake.”

“Hosts and guests play the game of forcing more portions, refusing, more pushing, okay just a little.”

Elena Petrova states on her website:

“It's considered rude if you leave something on your plate when eating at a private house and you can offend the hosts. If you do not drink alcohol, at least take a glass and have a sip. You are supposed to try every dish on the table so make room in your stomach.”

My wife is an excellent cook. We eat more or less in the Russian style on a daily basis.

Russians do not eat a special meal for breakfast as they do in America. To Russians, all meals are the same. You eat what is leftover from the last meal, plus anything new that is cooked to round out the choice of food.

Russian meals typically start with soup. All soups are home made. The most famous Russian soup is borscht. This is a beet soup. Ukrainian style borscht is vegetarian. Belarusians add bits of meat to the borscht and Russian style borscht usually adds sausage instead of meat.

A spoonful of Russian mayonnaise is added to the soup for flavor. The American equivalent to Russian mayonnaise is sour cream. Russians use sour cream like Americans use butter – they put it on almost everything.

Potato soup. Cabbage soup. Another soup is pickle soup, made from dill pickles. It’s delicious. Summer soup, made also from beets, is called that because it is served cold during the hot weather. There are more types of soup than I can remember. All of them are home made and delicious.

One of my favorite soups is Silonka. It has bits of just about everything cut up in small pieces and fried individually prior to cooking in the soup. Don’t pass up a chance to try Silonka.

Beets, cabbage, and potatoes grow well in the short Russian growing season, which is why much of their cuisine revolves around them.

Probably half of all Russians have a dachau, or a plot of land in the country, where they grow food. The growing season is from May to September. Food comprises about half of the monthly budget of Russians, so raising vegetables and fruit helps to cut a substantial portion of monthly expenses.

This is very labor-intensive work, as most of them do not have any mechanized equipment or irrigation systems. Water must be brought by bucket from the stream to irrigate crops. They can fruits and vegetables for the winter season.

Pork is the most common meat, followed by chicken and fish. Beef is not commonly served. They make homemade sausage called kielbasa.

Besides soup, the main staple of the Russian is thick brown bread, called ‘hleb.’ If you are on a tight budget, you can survive on soup, pronounced ‘zoup’ and ‘cleb.’ It’s surprising how much they fill up your belly.

Draniki is a Belarusian favorite that is best described as a potato pancake with meat inside. Polish peroshkis are similar to Draniki. A dab of Russian mayonnaise is added on top.

Ploff is a dish from Central Asia. It is a spicy, rich dish, similar to Spanish rice. Frequently bits of chicken or lamb are added for flavor, plus a dab of the ubiquitous Russian mayonnaise.

Galipsi is a meat dish of ground meat and rice that is stuffed inside cabbage leaves. The meatball is first browned, wrapped in a cabbage leaf, and then boiled in a pot in a delicious sauce. You can guess what is put on top when served.

Polmeni is best described as a pasta dish with a special filling. Frequently, that filling is meat. However, cheese and fruit fillings are also used. They are usually served in a soup bowl with a special broth.

Russian salads are mixed salads like potato salad or macaroni salad, but come in much more variety. They do not serve leafs of lettuce with dressing on top as in America. A Russian would be insulted with such a serving, as if you did not want to put more effort into preparing the food.

Each salad usually has the ubiquitous Russian mayonnaise as a base ingredient plus other spices.

Usually there is a choice of two or three salads on the table. They put together combinations that seem unusual to an American. For example, there is meat salad and fish salad that is mixed together with vegetables.

Russians love fish, especially smoked fish. You have obviously heard of caviar, which are roe eggs from sturgeon. Caviar is relatively cheap in Russia and is a good choice of a gift to bring back home. They serve roe eggs from a variety of fish.

Russians like strong, thick Russian beer with their smoked fish.

When you bring a Russian woman to America, one of the best things you can do for her is to find a Russian store selling the delicacies that she loves. Whether you like Russian food or not, she will be homesick for food from her homeland.

I live one hour south of San Jose and two hours south of San Francisco. Frequently, we make pilgrimages to these cities to load up on Russian delicacies.

If there are no Russian stores near you, you can frequently buy goods through catalog sales from Russian stores in New York or places where there is a large Russian population. Where there are Russians, there is Russian food.

If you are adaptable, it is best to learn to like what your wife cooks. She is cooking to please you. If you really like something, let her know. If not, let her know that as well.

Personally, I have learned to like Russian style cooking. I don’t want to do anything to discourage my wife from cooking for me. She is an excellent cook.

I know some American men, who are married to Russian women, that don’t like Russian food. They are pretty rigid in their food choices. Pizza. American salads. Hamburgers or barbecued steaks.

Their wives don’t cook for them nearly as much as my wife cooks for me. I eat like a king. Learn from our experiences.

Russians typically put small plates on the table, rather than large ones that Americans are used to. You are supposed to take a small portion of everything.

Leave lots of room in your stomach. Stop before you are full. Your hosts will insist that you eat at least one more serving of everything.

My mother in law stuffs me like a pig. If I don’t eat enough to feed a longshoreman, she gets insulted and complains that I don’t like her cooking.

I gain five to ten pounds every time I visit.

About the Author: John has been married to a Russian women for over five years. He has travelled the path from finding her, to traveling to Russia, to bring his wife to America, and adjusting to married life. He will show you step by step how to do this yourself.
Leave lots of room in your stomach. Stop before you are full. Your hosts will insist that you eat at least one more serving of everything.

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