Thursday, April 21, 2011

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.

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