So after asking you for your questions, I surprisingly got some very sensible and interesting questions from a lot of you (and also very unhelpful and disparaging comments from others of you – thank you Mr Woolcott). Whilst I was on my 13 hour train journey to St Petersburg I decided to answer one of the first questions I got, which, as the title suggests, was “what’s the food like in Russia?”
Great question – Russian cuisine and eating habits are very different to ours in general. As part of my accommodation agreement with my host mother, I also get breakfast and dinner (evening meal) from her. Breakfast invariably consists of a large plate (yes not bowl, plate) of porridge, a yogurt and occasionally some toast with cheese. Каша (kasha) is very similar to English porridge – usually made with milk and the Russians are very insistent that its very good for you! On the rare occasions that I haven’t had it for breakfast, it’s been replaced with an omelette, as my host mother calls it (in reality it’s very oily scrambled eggs – but not bad at all).
Dinner is taken very seriously – Russians nearly always eat three courses. The first is invariably a soup. As I’m not too keen on seafood, I haven’t yet had the fishy soup which I feel is the most popular in Yaroslavl, but other than that there are three main other types of soup – borscht, solyanka and rassolnik. All of these are equally tasty, and as you’d expect very filling – the Russians love soup mainly because its another way to counteract the cold! Luda usually puts meat in all three and serves them in huge bowls with about half a loaf of bread – and invariably adds a very large amount of mayonnaise. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about Russian cuisine, it’s that if it doesn’t have mayonnaise in it or the option to add mayonnaise then it’s not considered good food. After this I’m usually full, and often have to try and delay the main course for a couple of hours – my protestations that I’m full are usually met with puppy dog eyes and the tame question ‘do you not like my food?’ from Luda which usually ends up with me eating my main course straight away and having to roll to my bedroom afterwards….
The main courses have been quite varied – often I have a piece of meat with spaghetti which is ‘Russified’ with the addition of lots of salads and sauces which Luda has made herself – most involve peppers and taste somewhat similar to sweet chilli. Occasionally we eat pelmeni, a very popular dish over here – pasta shells stuffed with meat (unsure as to what it is) and served with, yes you’ve guessed it, a very healthy amount of mayonnaise. Luda also makes a nice dish which she calls potatoes with mushrooms – and unsurprisingly consists of boiled potatoes, some fried mushrooms and unlimited amounts of mayonnaise.
On the whole, the food here is great – I feel as though I have been really lucky to get Luda as a host mother because her cooking is excellent, and after a month or so everything that’s put in front of me now seems completely normal. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get over the extraordinary amount of mayonnaise that they use though!
Please keep your questions coming, and I’ll try to keep answering them in the coming weeks!