The History of Russian Cuisine
Russian cuisine is a reflection of the geographic diversity of Russia, the religious beliefs, and the traditions and ways of life. Historical shocks, globalization, and the retreat from traditions meant that many traditional Russian recipes have been lost to time. Along with these recipes, many aspects of food culture, called “trapeza”, were also lost. Despite all this, Russian cuisine as a whole, with its porridges, soups, and many baked goods, remains popular to this day.
Traditional Russian dishes used a lot of grains, berries, vegetables, flour and fish. These were all products that were common in the houses of even the most common people. Meat dishes were most common for holidays, and these dishes were true culinary masterpieces: ducks with apples, whole roasted pigs, or fried swans (most popular with rich families).
With the arrival of Christianity, Russian foods were divided into two types: fasting and non-fasting. Almost seven months of the year were devoted to some sort of fast, which usually meant limiting meat. Russian housewives had an arsenal of soups, porridges, and baked goods that they could always prepare, so even during fasts, there was plenty to eat.
The History of Russian Cuisine
The history of Russian cuisine stretches back more than a thousand years. During this time, Russian cuisine has changed several times, added new dishes and ingredients from other countries, and has added religious dishes and meanings.
Russian cuisine can be divided into four main eras:
- Old Russian cuisine (9th-16th centuries);
- Old Moscow cuisine (17th century);
- Cuisine under Peter and Catherine the Great (18th century);
- Petersburg cuisine (end of the 18th century-1860s).
Preserved foods were a large part of Russian cuisine. Since cold weather could be in some places for nine months out of the year, households would preserve as much food as possible to last through the winters. This included salting, smoking, soaking, and fermenting products. Soaked and fermented cabbage could be used to make shchi, or could be used as a filling for pierogies. Soaked apples were served to guests or used as side dishes. Pickled cucumbers were a main ingredient in a lot of dishes, including several traditional soups. Salted and dried meat and fish were eaten after fasts.
Russian Holiday Dishes
Russian cuisine combined many ritual and practical components. For holidays, housewives would cook a variety of dishes, each of which had a specific meaning. Poorer families would replace some ingredients with cheaper versions, which wouldn’t change the symbolic meaning. The main Russian holidays were Christmas, Maslenitsa, and Easter, plus weddings and birthdays.
Traditional Russian Foods
Each culture has its own authentic dishes, which all visitors are told to try. In Russia, this means trying an important piece of the traditional culture. Not all dishes that were cooked 500 years ago are available to try today, but there are quite a few dishes that are popular and show off the diversity of Russian cuisine.
Traditional Russian foods: