Friday, April 29, 2011


In Russia, there is an infamous drink called kvass (квас). It is made by fermenting black or rye bread, and has existed for the better part of the last 13 centuries, with one of the first occurrences of the word happening in 989. This non-alcoholic or low-alcohol beverage is the focus of my blog post not only because it’s old and traditional, but because non-alcoholic beverages get ignored way too often for their alcoholic counterparts (I’m looking at you vodka). So here’s a short history and explanation of kvass’s place in Russian culture.

It has evolved from a simple drink, compared to beer from barley, millet beer of Africa, and the rice wines of Asia, and is now a widely consumed beverage. However, that was not always the case. Since the times of Peter the Great, kvass has been a drink of the masses, often being brewed by individuals but also being sold as a commercial good. Originally a drink meant for summer months, as a seasonal alternative to vodka, which was traditionally used to warm people during the winter.

As the popularity of the drink grew, it needed to be distributed in new ways. From this need came the use of trailers, not unlike small gasoline trucks. People would bring out their cups and pay for a fill of kvass. This new tradition was popular not only in Russia, but also in other Slavic nations, such as Latvia, Lithuania, and Belarus. These can be compared to street vendors of hot dogs in the USA. Although it may not be the safest way to get your food or drink, it is a cultural mainstay.

Despite its cultural value, kvass doesn’t always have entirely positive connotations. The Russian phrase “Перебиваться с хлеба на квас”, which translates to “clambering from bread to kvass”, has a deeply negative meaning. It implies that someone is so poor that they have to use their stale bread to make their kvass. Although this may not be as popular a phrase today, due to the rise and fall of kvass’s own popularity, it doesn’t take away the meaning.

On the subject of the rise and fall of kvass’s popularity, it should be noted that its sale is on the upswing. Popular Western colas such as Coke and Pepsi had dominated the soft-drink market of Russia for a good deal of time, but since the mid 2000’s, kvass has been starting to take it’s place. This is partially due to a new marketing strategy which portrays kvass as a patriotic alternative to cola. It’s also partially due to the introduction of a few major players, including the Coca-Cola Company, which produces lower end kvass. There is indeed a distinction in Russia between lower quality kvass, made like a soda with flavorings and sugar, and higher quality kvass, made like beer with actual fermentation. Both types of kvass can be flavored with fruit or herbs.

I hope this blog post has shed some light on kvass. Definitely a cultural staple of Russia and worth a mention on Bear in a Hat.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

1000th post...

I noticed that Noel Kreger in her contribution below published the 1000th post on BiaH. That's a lot of posts!

Stetson students in Moscow


A few pictures with your students during their trip to Moscow. One at the
MGU overlook and the others during their visit to the Muzeon (fallen statue
graveyard). The latter is a part of their course in that they had a lecture
on photographing statues and monuments and then a practice session in the
hall of antiquities at the Hermitage before using their skills here. Will be
interesting to see what they came up with.


Russian Drinking Habits (and a Few Random Facts)

Although the majority of this blog post will center around drinks popular in Russia, I wanted to start with a short breakdown of meals in Russia. Dr. Denner explained these several times in class, but I'm not sure if we ever went over exactly what Russians eat at every meal, so here they are (in a revised form):

Завтрак: Breakfast. This is normally a light meal for Russians, often involving bread with cheese and ham, in addition to coffee or tea. Those who believe that breakfast is necessary for a good work day, though, may also eat buckwheat pancakes, omelets, and sandwiches containing cured or salted meats. These sandwiches are sometimes eaten in large amounts. Каша, a porridge made from buckwheat and associated with peasants, is common and also very healthy for younger children. It is generally topped with sour cream, but can also be served with meats, fish, or berries.

Обед: Lunch, commonly eaten at mid-day. Обед is the largest meal of the day in Russia, probably equating to most American dinners, and consists of a number of courses. The first course is normally a salad served with salted meats or poached fish, and is considered to be an appetizer. Soup / борщ is generally the second course for this meal, although this sometimes may serve as the main course. The latter form of soup has become the national soup of Russia and is generally comprised of beets and cabbage, served (again) with sour cream. Assuming that soup does not fill this role, the main course is often red meat or fish, in addition to two sides. The first side generally includes roasted vegetables (капуста!), whereas the second is often cabbage, potatoes, or the каша porridge. Finally, some Russians may finish the meal with a dessert course, commonly consisting of various fruits; these normally aren't found in American dessert dishes... unless they're perched atop a cake or pie.

Ужин: Dinner. This is significantly smaller than обед and is normally comprised of a small plate of bread, vegetables, and maybe some slices of meat. These are commonly served with hot tea or vodka.

~ ~ ~

So, on to the drinks! I mentioned coffee and tea very briefly, but here's a more in-depth description:

Chai (tea) and Coffee: Along with the British and Japanese, Russians are among the top three consumers of tea. It is mostly served black with sugar and lemon (have you seen how many flavors we have in the coffee shop alone?), and is often consumed with sweet cakes or small dishes of fruit.
Coffee is common in Russia, as well, but is not nearly as popular. Most people prefer to stick to tea, unlike the majority of Americans today.

Vodka: The national drink of Russia. Vodka is often purchased unflavored, but Russians sometimes flavor their vodka with cranberries, lemon peel, pepper, or other herbs. It is normally consumed alongside sour cucumbers, pickled mushrooms, black bread (sound familiar?), or salted herring.

Wine: I'm not exactly sure how I believed that Russia was the world's third-largest producer of wine... so I did a bit of digging and learned that they only produced 2.24% of the world's wine in 2009. A large majority of this Russian wine stays within the country, and many of the wine-growing areas also produce excellent brandy. Russians often prefer fortified wines sweetened with sugar, and drink these as an alternative to vodka at times.

Beer: Just as popular in Russia as it is in Europe, Russian beer is commonly made through traditional, home-brewing methods. Kvas, as Dr. Denner mentioned, is a summer drink that is made from fermented rye bread. It has a small alcohol content and a taste reminiscent of licorice. Also, the Coca-Cola company has recently started to produce their own bottled forms of kvas, in an attempt to regain control of the soda markets (more below).

Other drinks: In addition to the above drinks, fermented milk drinks are popular in the country. Kefir is made from fermented cow's milk and is thick and refreshing. Prostokvasha is made in a similar manner, but is thicker as a result of the additional whey and overnight fermentation.

Soda: So, the article that I originally found had nothing to say about the popularity of soda in Russia, and I couldn't really find anything about soda on Google. A current Stetson student studying in Russia, Rachel Orr, noted that she rarely sees soda outside of fast-food restaurants.
Apparently, it isn't nearly as popular as hot tea or juice, and is often served without ice. Although Burger King and McDonald's provide ice for drinks, many Russians seem to think that ice makes you sick (well, apparently some fast-food restaurants in America were found to serve ice with strains of E. Coli, according to a few friends of mine...). Coke seems to be more common in Russia, but that is undoubtedly because it made it to the country before Pepsi.
Also, she said that Russians have a brand of soda called Mirinda, which is like Fanta but "much, much better."
Finally, I found an article that mentioned that Pepsi and Coca-Cola were once much more popular than the commercial brands of kvas in Russia. Recently, kvas has been marketed as a patriotic alternative to soda and has caused the soda market to plummet. In 2008, Coke introduced its own brand of kvas, seeking to regain sales, and this has recently started to make its way to America (I believe as a result of Medvedev's visit to our country last year).

Other Sources:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Unit 9 - Russian Parties!

Unlike Americans, a key trait of most Russians is their close relationship with family and friends. This is most evident in the parties that Russians hold, which are very unlike the parties held in America.

To begin with, Russian parties always include vast quantities of food. In America, the food mostly consists of anything that can be ordered or made quickly, including pizza, chicken, hot dogs, and hamburgers. In Russia, however, the food is prepared with much more care and effort. Typical food selections at Russian parties include salads, potatoes, sausage, chicken, and bread, served with water, black tea, or the infamous Russian vodka. These parties contain so much food that it is common for the entire dining table to be full with dishes of food.

Once everyone has eaten, the festivities begin. A family member will grab whatever instruments are around and play some music. In harmony (or not, depending on how much vodka was consumed), the rest of the family and friends will begin to sing along to a number of different folk songs that everyone knows. Along with the music and singing, dancing is a must. Everyone, from the youngest to the oldest, will get up and dance (or wobble, again, depending on the amount of vodka). As a guest, a Russian may ask you to dance, but this is more of a rhetorical question and you are expected too anyway.

Russian parties are very frequent and are an essential part of Russian culture. Unlike in America, these parties are more than just a social gathering. They are the bonds that hold families and friends together.

-Micah Ivey

Unit 9 Russian Breakfast-завтрак!

The people of Russia commonly eat 4 meals a day, the first being breakfast (duh). Although most russians eat a very light breakfast that consists of bread with ham and cheese(бутерброд), there is a strong work ethic in Russia and belief that, to work hard, one must eat well. Because of this, russian pancakes (блины), omelets, or porridge (каша) may be an addition to the smaller meal.

Coffee or tea accompanies breakfast.

The most common Russian breakfast is блины. These are thin pancakes that are similar to crepes, the difference being the absence of yeast in a crepe. The traditional Russian blinis are composed of a yeasted batter which is left to rise and then diluted with cold water or milk. They are then baked in an oven, though they are almost universally pan-fried, like pancakes.

блины can be eaten with jam (Варенье), caviar (Икра), meat (мяco), and topped with
(Сметана). In russia, you can even find blini that are ready made, that are already packed and iced. To cook them, a microwave can be used or you can pan fry them.

Here are some Russian sayings about their блины:

* Блин не клин, брюха не расколет – Pancake not a wedge, the belly is not split
* Продал душу ни за овсяный блин – Sold his soul for no oatmeal pancake
* Где блины, тут и мы; где оладьи, там и ладно – Where pancakes are, we are; where pancakes are, there everything is okay

Although I am not sure the meanings of the first two, the third is clear that the Russians love their блины!!

There is a saying about breakfast as well:
"Eat breakfast yourself,
Share dinner with a friend,
But give supper to your enemy!"

Folk Remedies

Russians are well known for their dislike of modern medicine and their distrust in pills. Many of them prefer to "fix" health problems by the use of old remedies passed down for generations. Many times, they chose to use fruits, berries, and herbs to soothe symptoms and cure common ailments.
Some things can be as weird as pouring honey into a hollowed out ребка and drinking it with a spoon. Here is a list of other weird but possibly positive remedies.
For Nasal Congestion:
Chop one clove of garlic and combine with 1 Tbsp vegetable oil. Let steep over night, strain then use as nose drops. Or, roll a just boiled egg back and forth over the sinuses to relieve pressure.
For a cough:
Cover pieces of paper in a mustard flour (gorchichniki) soaked in warm water. Place over the chest and back for 10-20 minute intervals while under a blanket. This will allow blood flow to the area and make it easier to breathe. They must stay under the blanket for the rest of the night though to keep warm.
For the common cold:
Chop 4 tsp. of horseradish very thin and wrap in hot gauze. Then tie the gauze to the back of the head.

Social Life

When an American thinks of a party they think of a bunch of people getting together at a home, restaurant, or other large location to listen to music, socialize, and probably drink to some extent. There is a very superficial feel to all of this.
In Russia, a party is a much more significant event. It is a big deal to get invited to someone's home seeing as they tend to have a close network of family and friends that they usually associate with on such an intimate basis. At a Russian party there is usually a large table filled with food. Small appetizers, meats, cheeses, bread, 'pies,' potatoes, and pickled foods are common along with wines and vodka, the national drink. American 'party snacks' usually include pizza, potato chips, pretzels, and other finger foods along with sodas and alcohol to some extent.
The meals tend to be very long and consist of many toasts (which equate to many drinks). Everyone will drink unless they have good reason not to. If your drink is not finished after the toast it is impolite to put it down until it is.
In the U.S. it is common to have liquid chasers after drinking vodka, such as juice or soda, or making mixed drinks with vodka, in Russia it is not. Chasers are usually small pieces of black bread or another appetizer sized bite and mixed drinks are uncommon. These parties tend to las for a very long time and involve stories, jokes, music, songs, and general enjoyment of one's company. In the end, everyone is usually quite happy. However, it is considered in bad taste to become visibly intoxicated off of vodka
In general, Russian parties are much more intimate than parties in the US and involve more toasts (alcohol), more varied food, and probably a much more fun experience!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Vodka and Bourbon: Reflections of Political Culture

For all of the differences between Russia and the United States, the world can rest assured that both countries take great pride in their national liquors. It’s common knowledge that vodka is Russia’s most popular drink, comprising roughly 70% of all alcohol sales. Arriving quietly to Russia 14th century by Genoese (North Italian) merchants, it was initially rejected to the more popular mead and beer. Over time, it gained popularity and eventually become a utility of power by which the vlast (political elite) ruled over the masses, until the Soviet Union fell. Bourbon, on the other hand enjoyed a much more democratic rise to popularity. Brewed in the backwoods of Kentucky in the late 18th century, it quickly spread to the East Coast and played distinct roles in key events of American History. By the 21st century, the United Senates Senate had recognized bourbon as “America’s Native Spirit”. The top down spread of vodka’s popularity in Russia as opposed to the bottom-up spread of bourbon in America reflect the social and cultural dimensions of the respective countries.

An ancestor of vodka, known in Latin as aqua vitae, was first introduced in the Grand Duchy of Moscow in 1386 to the court of Grand Duke Dmitry Ivanovich Donskoy. Genoese merchants from North Italy were on their way to Lithuania when they stopped in Moscow. Impressed by the Prince’s hospitality, they offered gifts of the distilled grape juice. The court was not impressed, however, and beer and mead remained the most popular of drink. Merchants brought Aqua vitea appeared again 1429, this time rumored to be a panacea. Prince Vasily the Second excitedly embraced the drink. Soon monks began producing their own version, known as “bread wine”. One rumor states the first Russian vodka was produced at a monastery inside the Kremlin itself.

Popularity in vodka surged in the 15th century to the point where Tsar Ivan the Third established a state monopoly on the production and sales of the drink. His predecessors set up taverns, known as kabaki (kabak in the singular) where men (often soliders) could drink, play dice, and fight. The tsars made great profit from the kabaki and more strictly enforced the monopoly on the alcohol industry. In an effort to make even more money, Peter the Great sold allowances to produce vodka to aristocrats. This policy expanded to the point that Catherine the Great in the mid 18th century had allowed all nobles to produce it, declaring it the drink of the aristocracy. Peasants, still forbidden to taste the beverage, started to brew it themselves. They used anything they could find to flavor the drink – fruit, berries, roots, and seeds, resulting in a massive plethora of vodka flavors that exist to this day.

Vodka remained popular through the 19th century. Sometimes the tsar monopolized the industry, and sometimes the aristocracy and distillery rights too. Nonetheless, all Russian were able to find it readily available and in great quantity. That is, until 1905. When Russia lost the Russo-Japanese War, an embarrassed and disgraced Nicholas II took vodka off the shelves, presumably as a means to toughen up his drunken, defeated country. Prohibition in Russia was reaffirmed in 1914 at the start of World War II and in 1917 when the Bolsheviks took power. It was not until 1925 that Vladimir Lenin allowed the sale of vodka once more. When the ban was lifted, alcoholism rates soared to new levels – from which Russia has never quite descended. Mikhail Gorbachev tried to restrict alcohol sales in 1985, following the release of paper that drew attention to the Soviet Union’s alcoholism. The restrictions were soon lifted, after the state experienced a windfall in revenue from the lost tax dollars.

The fall of the Soviet Union brought a new, but short, day for Russia’s vodka industry. For the first time in history, anybody could produce and sell the liquor. Thousands of brands appeared on the streets instantaneously. Many were of low, or even dangerous, quality. Combined with the loss of Kremlin revenue, Boris Yeltsin issued a presidential decree bringing vodka production back under the regulation and taxation of the state. Today, Russia still faces conflicts between the state and the free flow of alcohol. While the Putin and Medvedev administrations have raised taxes on vodka, they have been reluctant to raise them to the point where it would slow sales down. The Russian government is too dependent on alcohol revenue to effectively combat its national problem. In the meantime, Russians and Slavophiles the world over continue to enjoy Stolichnaya, Russian Standard, and all the other vodkas that contribute to Russian culture and national identity.

The earliest record of bourbon brewing in the United States dates from 1783, when Robert Samuels created a secret recipe for bourbon, which his family faithfully distilled for sixty years non-commercially, before turning it into a business that survives to this day as Maker’s Mark. Later that year, Evan Williams opened a distillery in Louisville, Kentucky becoming the first commercial seller of the whiskey. Williams faced growing competition in the next decade as whiskey distillers in Pennsylvania migrated to Kentucky to escape the hated Excise Tax that was held up following the infamous Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. It was much harder to enforce the tax in lawless and unregulated Kentucky, which had only entered the union two years earlier. Perhaps the most famous of distillers to come of this era was James Beam, whose brand of course exists to this day.

The 19th century saw the continuing flourishing of bourbon as a Kentucky and Southern specialty. The first advertisement for the drink was seen in a newspaper in Paris, Kentucky in 1821. Two years later, Dr. James C. Crow developed the sour mash, a method of recycling the yeast for the next fermentation. This process would eventually be adopted by most distilleries. In 1840, the drink acquired its common name after being shortened from Old Bourbon Country Whiskey, named after the area near Louisville on the Ohio River where most of the distilleries were built. The Civil War created a temporary shortage of bourbon as distilleries were closed so workers could join the Confederacy or because the owners had invested in Confederate war bonds. Production picked up in the 1870’s though, as innovations in shipping allowed the drink’s popularity to spread throughout the country.

The 20th century saw another speed bump for bourbon, however. Like in Russia, the U.S. experienced a ban on alcohol took place in the early part of the century. Between 1920 and 1933, hundreds of distilleries were shut down. The only ones to survive Prohibition were those that obtained permission to distill bourbon as medicine. The industry recovered however and in 1964, was actually protected by the U.S. government. Declared the country’s “national spirit’ by an Act of Congress, strict regulations were imposed that explicitly defined bourbon and who could their drink that name. Still despite the protection, Russia scored a cultural Cold War victory when in 1973, vodka replaced whiskey as the country’s most popular drink. This is largely attributed to an increase in female drinkers who preferred the lighter drink. Still, bourbon continues to this day to be recognized as the wholly American choice of liquor. In 2007, the month of August was declared “National Bourbon Heritage Month”, honoring distillers throughout the years.

In comparing the histories of vodka and bourbon, one cannot help but notice differences that relate to larger cultural differences between the countries. Vodka in Russia has historically been a drink held by the elites over the masses. It was originally given to a Russian prince, and either brewed by the czars or by the nobles with the czars’ permission. Only recently was vodka freely sold and even then it has been highly regulated. Bourbon, on the other hand, flourished away from the powers of the political elite. Invented in the Kentucky backwards, it has only recently gained government attention. Bourbon largely benefitted from attempts at escaping government control, especially during its formative years around the time of the Whiskey Rebellion. The natures of these two histories coincide with the nature of the Russian and American states. Russia has always been an authoritarian state in which the elite controls the masses. As such, vodka becomes a means of control and a means of expression within that culture. The United States has historically sought to escape such control, and bourbon reflects this very nature. Such a comparison suggests that the development of national drinks reflects the larger political culture where the drink developed. Perhaps there is some research to be done here.


Russian Cultural Differences: Food: Unit 9

Food and how it is perceived is globally and inherently intertwined with the culture of nations therefore there can be many stereotypes involving the way countries prepare food and what they eat. Russians, due to their environment and cultural differences, view eating quite differently than Americans do and there are stereotypes held on both sides. Russians typically see American food as unnatural, over-proccessed fast food. They are suspicious of fruits and vegetables that are on the shelves that should have been long out-of-season and anyone who walks into a gas station and sees a twinki is automatically going to be concerned about the eating habits of that culture.

Admittedly all stereotypes do have a factual basis however small that may be. Americans do eat out considerably and do not emphasize home-cooked meals in this busy environment as much as Russians do. Our fruits are available year-round; but this is simply due to large imports and greenhouse technology. Our food might be seen as strange and bland to Russians because the only contact they have with American food is essentially McDonald's which has become quite a phenomenon on the weekends for half of adults in Russia (16-50 years old) since its initial opening in the 1990's. However, when asked, most American's do not associate their comfort food with fast food joints. They think of their mother's rich home cooking and family dinners.

Besides McDonald's and a few other struggling American chains, Russian fast food mainly consists of cultural dishes with an authentic atmosphere that is facilitated by indigenous companies; these places are so successful because the cost of operation for local businesses is about half of what it is for imported corporations. Russia also has an intricate kiosk like system that food venders use to serve their product on the street, kind of like hot dog stands or burrito joints in America. Regardless of all of these factors, Russia's main difference when it comes to how they eat is that they generally rely on home cooking. This is because of the close, traditional families that are typical of their country and the relatively low pay that they receive. Russians are also largely seasonal eaters so their dishes vary throughout the year making it hard for restaurants, especially fast food, to keep a consistent menu.

Dining edict also differs greatly between the two cultures. Russians tend to see eating as more of a down to business occasion. Unless it is a dinner party there is not much talking and it is considered disrespectful for children to talk. When there is conversation and at dinner parties Russians enjoy philosophical and political conversations, topics that are taboo in America; Russians are often annoyed at the frivolous nature of American small talk. Americans see meals as a time to socialize and many business meetings are conducted over dinner or lunch, something that Russians would never do. Unlike Americans Russians do not drink much during their meal, they consider it unhealthy. A Russian dinner usually consists of a bowl of soup, a main course, and a dessert where coffee or hot tea is acceptable. They also do not emphasize waiting on everybody to eat. If the hostess is not at the table it is not considered impolite to go ahead and dig in as long as you complete the meal; that would be considered disrespectful.

It is apparent that the Russian and American food cultures are quite different in many ways. There are still many more differences that have not been covered. But from this overview it is quite easy to see how stereotypes can form between the two cultures. Both environments are so alien to each other and if an individual from one were to find himself in the other he would either be appalled or offend somebody quite easily.

UNIT 9!!!!!!!!! Viktor Chudin

(left to right) "Still Life", "Fishermen"

Color, for Victor Chudin - is a way to illustrate his emotional creativity. Colors shows the excitement, intensity and illuminates the energy. His works all support one meaning, beauty can never be too bright!

Where to find his art: "In 1987 he had his personal gallery at the Museum of A. N. Radishev in Saratov. As of 1989 0 1996 the artists works are exhibited in numerous galleries in Germany. From 1997 until now, Victor experiments with the technique of acrylic painting. The art works of Victor Chudin are located in museums of A. N. Radishev (more than 100 works), museum of K.A. Fedin (in Saratov), in Altai regional museum (Barnaul), and in the hands of private owners across Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Saratov, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Israel and the U.S."

Russians Have Green Thumbs? Who Knew!

Over the course of the class I’ve been interested in comments on gardening in Russia. I’m actually fairly certain that my stomach growled a couple of times during discussions on all the fresh produce the Russian people treasure. I was the strange child who would happily choose an apple over a cookie or a handful of baby carrots over a piece of chocolate. So, I’ve now added experiencing fresh fruits and vegetables in Russia to my bucket list.

So, how has Russia cultivated this produce-rich environment? Potatoes, beets, cabbages, and other cold-tolerant greens are popular choices, along with vegetables like cucumber and dill that are often served as garnishes. Since many plants can’t grow during Russia’s harsh winter months, pickling vegetables – cabbage, cucumber, and rutabagas – in brine is used to preserve food for winter use. Pickled apples and other fruits are also favored. These provide vitamins and other nutrients during the time of year that fresh fruits and vegetables are not available.

Though many Americans are content to grab wimpy-looking produce from the nearest refrigerator during a dash to the supermarket, Russians are proud of what they grow and have a tendency to choose their food with much more care. In fact, according to a 2010 survey by a company called Romir, 39% of Russians equate high-quality produce with Russian produce and they often choose their fruits and vegetables at big open markets that sell locally grown products. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia (thankfully) lacked the funds to participate in the growing trend of genetically-modified food. The practices of Western bio-engineering were never applied to Russian agriculture, so it has retained its natural (and delicious) taste. According to the survey, 37% of Russians are willing to spend more to buy food free of genetic modifications and 41% are willing to spend a little more on “organic” products.

As you can probably guess, the United States uses more mineral fertilizers and pesticides than Russia, a result of Russia’s relative poverty. This misfortune could become an advantage in Russia as the organic food market continues to grow. More and more, Russian farmers are becoming major suppliers of organic produce and other foods. And as more of it is imported to the United States, I’ll definitely be buying.

The Most important Meal of the day

As we all know Americans see Breakfast as being the most important meal of the day. However, Russians see it differently. Instead Lunch is there most important meal.

The Russian breakfast is usually a small portion. Many Russians eat bread with coffee in the morning or leftovers from the previous day. As opposed to an American breakfast which is a much bigger portion size and usually a typical cultural American breakfast can be seen as eggs, bacon, toast, hash browns, and pancakes which are all eaten with one sitting.

The second meal of the day is the largest for Russians. Their lunch usually consists of a salad, soup (soup can sometimes be doubled to be the entree as well), and a plate built around a meat and two sides. Roasted vegetables are usually the main side for this meal. An American lunch is usually much smaller portioned. It usually consists of some sort of sandwich, or burger. With a side of fries or chips. Salad is also very popular as a meal at this time.

Dinner for the Russians is smaller than there lunch meal. It only consists of zakuskas (appetizers), which is usually accompanied y hot tea or vodka. An American dinner consists of a main meal centered around a meat and two sides with a salad that comes before hand.

So from what I have researched Americans sit down to two larger portioned meals, breakfast and dinner, with there first meal being the most important. While Russians sit down to two small portioned sized meals with there largest meal, Lunch, being presented in the middle of the day.

Russian Eating Habits

Russians have a somewhat different relationship to food than Americans do. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian public was introduced to a variety of western foods (McDonalds and other processed foods prime among them). Though Russians are fascinated by McDonalds (it’s kind of a “big deal” to go there on the weekends), they have widely rejected the processed food of the West. Most modern Russians still go to the market every day for fresh, in season fruits and vegetables in the spring and summer, which they preserve for the long winter months ahead. Russians are also expert gardeners – most city-dwellers have elaborate gardens at their dachas from which they get the majority of their produce.

The American habit of skipping breakfast is virtually unheard of in Russia. Russians believe that one cannot perform well without eating. Breakfast usually consists of an open-faced sandwhich and tea, though some Russians are now accustomed to more Westernized cereals. On special occasions and weekends, blini (similar to crepes) are eaten with jam or honey. Lunch in Russia is a big affair. Most businesses still give their employees almost two hours for lunch. Russians rarely frequent restaurants (though younger generations are now favoring cafes more and more). In America, going to a restaurant is a “special occasion,” but Russians usually spend their special occasions with a home cooked meal or party. Russians always start lunch with soup (a staple, probably because it’s so cold most of the year!) and follow with traditional “meat and potatoes” dishes, then tea and dessert. Everything is served with dill, and it isn’t uncommon to see babooski picking bunches of dill from beside the road. Another Russian tradition is to go mushroom picking – every family has their own “secret spots” for picking mushrooms near the dacha. Everything has dill, mayonnaise, or sour cream in it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Russian dishes

My favorite part of the Russian cuisine is borscht, and of course dessert. Borscht was made primarily by the poorer peoples because beets were cheap. It was not something that you would serve to royalty or their servants.

Borscht: Takes 3 hours to cook.

Ingredients for eight servings:

3 lbs bone-in beef shank

2 tbsp of vegetable oil

1 chopped onion

6 cups of water

1/2 lb of carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 stalks of celery, also cut into 1 inch pieces

1/3 medium head of cabbage, shredded

1 lb of beets, peeled and shredded

1 cup of tomato juice

1 tbsp of lemon juice

2 tsp of white sugar

2 tsp of salt

1/8 tsp of ground black pepper

Directions: 1) In a large pot over medium heat, brown beef in oil. Stir in onion and water, reduce heat and simmer, covered, 2 hours, until meat is tender. 2) Remove meat from broth and set aside to cool slightly. Stir carrots, celery, cabbage, beets, tomato juice, lemon juice, sugar, salt, and pepper into broth. When meat is cool enough to handle, cut meat from bone and into bite-sized pieces and then return to soup. Simmer until vegetables are tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

Honey Mousse

Ingredients (serves 6 to 8 people):

3/4 cups of honey

4 eggs

1 cup of whipped cream (optional instead of using egg whites)

Directions: 1) Separate the yolks for the whites. Add the yolks to the saucepan and beat, gradually adding in the honey. 2) When completely mixed, cook over a low heat, using a SimmerMat (if available) to control the level of heat. Stir constantly until thickened. Remove from heat and cool. 3) Beat the egg whites, or cream, until stiff and fold into the honey mixture. Mix thoroughly. Spoon the mixture into serving dishes and chill before serving.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Moscow Zoo

For those of you who are interested, I shall have a much more in-depth story about the Moscow zoo on my blog. But this image amused me so much I felt the need to share it.

The sign translates to "Caution: Dangerous Animal!" Yes, it is outside the enclosure of a napping Stellar Sea Lion. Presumably, this animal could be dangerous... if it sat on you. But seeing as how 50yards away is the "Дельфинарий," where you pay 700p to take a picture of a different Stellar Sea Lion/bottlenose dolphin/Beluga whale kissing your children, I feel that he is not posing a real threat.

Zoo authorities did not feel the need to put signs up near, say, the tiger or zebra enclosure. Presumably, people would know instinctively the tiger is dangerous. But people felt the need to feed the zebras through the fence... I was anticipating watching a live version of, "When Animals Attack: Moscow Edition."

Anyway... enjoy the sea lion picture!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Courtney's recital

herher les russes...

"Here's how it was explained to me," Mr. Rosenthal said. "They're coming, the Russians today, from a place of a little humiliation, having lost the cold war, and the last thing they want or need is some American coming and telling them what to do. So maybe that accounts for some of the resistance I was getting. Or maybe senses of humor are different all over the world. But I couldn't help believing that dealing with your parents and your wife and your kids and your brother, I couldn't believe it wasn't a common thing."

A far simpler excuse: Russians despise chumps, and love bullies. (Channeling Richard Pipes for a moment.) Al Bundy is a shoe salesman who gets railroaded by every person he meets. We Americans, for whatever reason historically and culturally, love underdogs, and savor the moments when Al finally gets his way. The Russians, on the other hand, respect anyone who can make the rules obey them.

I watched a few minutes of the pilot. Dour and humorless. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Glamorous Glinka

Most incorrectly, many people regard Russian Music pre-westernized to be just about non-existent. If you review my past post on the “History of Early Russian Music” you will surely realize the error of your ways and be enlightened. However, I can recognize a clean revolution in Russian music history at the beginning of the 19th century when the east met the west. For the purposes of this blog, I will introduce you to the composer that many music historians refer to as “the first important Russian composer”, Mikhail Glinka.
The early life of Glinka was, well, privileged. Born (June 1st, 1804) to a high-ranking military family in service of the Tsar, Glinka enjoyed an easy childhood of sweets, furs, and a doting babushka. He was so coddled that indeed he developed a fragile disposition and remained in frail health throughout his life. Glinka was often exposed to Russian Folk music via traveling musicians. He heard the church bells tuned to dissonant chords, thus shaping his early understanding of harmony. Glinka was lucky enough to have had a private teacher who introduced him to Russian, German, and French language as well as their respective geographies. This also put him in touch with the popular western style music that he studied as a pianist and violinist. At 13 Glinka was sent to St. Petersberg to study under the piano professor Charles Meyer and it was not long before the young Glinka was recognized as a virtuoso. In 1830 he was even taken on a meandering tour through Italy where he took lessons at the conservatory in Milan (this was the thing to do if you were an up and coming composer in Russia because even its own people disregarded their own music for some misguided reason). Obviously this trip had a profound effect on the development of Mikhail’s musicality; however, Glinka fast became disenchanted with the Italian ways as he recognized that his duty was to his homeland in Russia and Russia’s own music culture.
In 1834, when Glinka was in Berlin, he received a fateful message that his father had died. This prompted him to return to his hometown in Novospasskoye. While in Berlin, Glinka had become enamored with a beautiful and talented singer, (for whom he composed Six Studies for Contralto). He contrived a plan to return to her, but when his sister's German maid turned up without the necessary paperwork to cross to the border with him, he abandoned his plan as well as his love and turned north for Saint Petersburg. There he reunited with his mother, and made the acquaintance of Maria Petrovna Ivanova. After courting her for a brief period, the two married. The marriage was short-lived, as Maria proved to be utterly without tact and uninterested in his music. The silver lining here is that Glinka used his nagging ex-wife as inspiration for his most famous opera “A Life for a Tsar”.
The significance of “Ivan Susanin” (the original title for “A Life for a Tsar”) lies in the fact that this was the first Russian Opera sung in Russian Language. The work was premiered on December 9, 1836, under the direction of Catterino Cavos, who had written an opera on the same subject in Italy. Although it still retained a plethora of characteristics distinctly European, Glinka’s work was a grand success. In essence, he paved the way for future Russian composers (including of course the “Russian Five”) who would dedicate their lives as composers to writing Russian nationalist music in the traditional style.
Glinka lived his last years in Berlin. He died suddenly on 15 February 1857, following a cold. Glinka was buried in Berlin but a few months later his body was taken to Saint Petersburg and reinterred in the cemetery of the Alexander Nevsky Monastery.

Below I am including a recording of Glinka's Grand Sextet for piano, two violins, viola, cello and double bass. Your elcome :)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Radish & honey,,,

The classic Russian cure for whatever ails you... dig out the inside of a черная редька (sort of a big, mild radish... or a cross between a red radish and a turnip) and fill in the cavity with honey. Wait a few hours, and then eat the honey and turnip juices.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Friday, April 8, 2011

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Petite Lap Giraffes

Have you ever seen the Direct TV commercial with the little giraffe? The one with the weird guy with the Russian accent getting his fake muscles pumped up and the little giraffe running on the treadmill? If not, check here. So, these are REAL. I know, I know, they're too cute for words. They are bred on Sokoblovsky Farms (just outside of Krasnodar) which is in Southwestern Russia. Interested in getting one? Then sign up on the waiting list, here. Also, if you are more interested in checking out the live cam , you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one of the little guys. A new baby will be born in just over 150 days!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this. My roommate already signed up for one. yay for Marketing campaigns! Even though the PLG ideas has been debunked, the dream still lives on for a small giraffe to call your own.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Some Folk Tales

I found this site a while back; it has a decent collection of Russian folk tales. Most of them aren't very long, and I think they're definitely worth checking out. I personally really like this sort of thing, when I can spare time for it. This site also has a pretty good amount of Russian merchandise, although I'm not sure exactly how authentic it is. It's still interesting to look at, and hey, maybe you need a new religious icon for your dacha.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Shostakovich's Great Big Serious 9th Symphony... PSYCHE!

I always love an opportunity to present the great Dimitri Shostakovich as the mastermind he is. His Symphony No. 9 is most def. a case in point!
Educated music historians are aware of the so-called composer’s curse. Beginning with the late Ludwig Van Beethoven, it seemingly became a pattern that upon the completion of his ninth symphonic masterpiece a composer would croak. This is evidenced in the death of Schubert, Bruckner, Dvorak, Mahler, and Vaughan Williams who all died within weeks of reaching this ill fated number in their composition repertoire… ok so maybe this is a bit of an over simplification but the point is that #9 is a significant number to the “greats” who followed in their predecessor’s footsteps.
When it came time for Shostakovich to write his Symphony No. 9, the Russia music community was practically teeming with excitement over the possibilities Shosty would explore in his music. Many expected him to pull out the big guns and write a symphony to include choir like the massive Beethoven counterpart. These suspicions were bolstered by the composer’s declaration in October 1943 that the symphony would be a large composition for orchestra, soloists and chorus which the context would be "about the greatness of the Russian people, about our red army liberating our native land from the enemy (the Nazi’s)". The government who had their fingers in all matters of art (because a government officials surely know everything about everything when it comes to evaluating music) expected a nationalistic wonder full of serious sentiment and dignity. Of course they were all woefully disappointed…
Despite initial sketches presented by Shostakovich in April of 1944, he ultimately lost inspiration for his originally intended work. Following a long break, during which he dropped the project completely, he resumed working and finished the real Symphony No. 9 on August 30th, 1945. This symphony turned out to be a completely different work from the one he had originally planned, with neither soloists nor chorus and a much lighter mood than expected. He forewarned listeners, "In character, the Ninth Symphony differs sharply from my preceding symphonies, the 7th and the 8th. If the Seventh and the Eighth symphonies bore a tragic-heroic character, then in the Ninth a transparent, pellucid, and bright mood predominates."
As predicted by Shostakovich himself, many of his colleagues praised the symphony as charming and overall successful, whereas the government critics believed it to be “Ideologically weak” and “misrepresenting of the Soviet attitude”. Surprisingly the West reacted unfavorably as well, believing it to be a childish celebration over the defeat of Hitler. This was a very tender time for the world so certain considerations for their error in judgment can be excused… Symphony No. 9 was nominated for the Stalin Prize in 1946, but failed to win it. By order of Glavrertkom, the central censorship board, the work was banned on 14 February 1948 in his second denunciation together with some other works by the composer. It was removed from the list in the summer of 1955 when the symphony was performed and broadcasted.
Like Beethoven, the entirety of the work spans 5 mvts. On a personal note I have recently performed this Symphony and have found it to be delightful. It is sweet and joyful while still retaining that creepy tombstone quality that is found in all music of Shosty (he dedicated the entirety of his works to the thousands who were killed in Stalin’s purges). My favorite moment would certainly be the theme in the first mvt. played as a violin solo (In my performance our concertmaster/violin soloist was a tall blond Russian guy by the name of Igor Kalnin so I couldn’t help but bask in the awesomeness)!
Below I am including a video of said 1st Mvt:

7 Reasons Vladimir Putin is the World's Craziest Badass

I'm not technically required to post on this blog anymore, but people need to know about this article! Check it out below if the title doesn't work.

Friday, April 1, 2011

UNIT 8!!!! Moscow International House of Music

Moscow International House of Music Yury Nugmanov plays Chris DeBlasio "God Is Our Righteousness" for guitar and organ