Russian culinary traditions boast an enchanting variety. Several centuries ago, deep rivers and rich hunting grounds supplied eaters with a mass of supplies, which, combined with vegetables, cereals, dairy products and wild plants, turned into luxurious dishes. Chronicles and notes of foreign travelers tell about what they ate in Russia in antiquity. The latter were invariably delighted (and sometimes - and in sacred horror) the number of hot and cold snacks on the festive tables of the Slavs.
Culinary abundance in Russian
It is no coincidence that earlier in noble houses the tables were made so huge - during feasting hours they were completely filled with all kinds of snacks, sweet "snacks" and main dishes. Here you could see dozens of pickles: cucumbers and mushrooms, pickled wild berries, pickled apples, sauerkraut. But tomatoes, so familiar to us today, adorned a rare meal even in the recent 19th century. This is because these "mad berries", brought to Russia during the time of Peter the Great, were considered by the people to be poisonous.
Twenty kinds of fish on one table! To a modern person, such a menu will seem somewhat monotonous, but our ancestors such a blasphemous thought would never have entered their heads. Sturgeon, salmon, ide and roach, crucian carp and pike were prepared according to the most incredible recipes, so their taste has always been unique. The fish was fried and baked, boiled in milk and soaked in wine. Huge carcasses were stuffed with cabbage, porridge, mushrooms, and small portions were poured with a spicy sauce of herbs, berry juices and anise.
Meat was also loved by the Slavs, although it was not available to everyone and not always. Pork, horse meat, beef appeared on the table of peasants or ordinary townspeople on holidays. The situation was a little better with poultry, and most often the "meat-eaters" could please themselves with game - hare or, say, venison. She was also the center of attention during the holidays. Large carcasses were stuffed with bacon and fried on a spit, small prey was simmered in pots with different roots and vegetables. A swan, whole baked with honey and garlic, was considered a truly royal dish.
Some visitors from prim Europe, who got to the Russian feast, after such a party were forced to resort to the services of doctors - and the point is not at all in the notorious fat content of Slavic pickles, which they then complained to doctors, and in a banal gluttony. The guests could not tear themselves away from the luxurious festive table for days, while waiting for the final in the cold there were already jugs with kvass - especially persistent gourmets poured them into a "stomach fire".
However, one should not think that gluttony was regular in Russia - for most of the year the people had to fast more or less strictly, refusing "modest" dishes. And then cereals and vegetables came out on top, although they could not do without soups seasoned with flour, pies with mushrooms and berries, ordinary lush bread and rolls.
Food for any budget - from a palace to a hut
It is clear that social and financial inequality dictated its requirements for the menu. At the court of Empress Catherine, even an everyday dinner did not include less than five dozen dishes, and ordinary peasants were content with something nourishing, but extremely uncomplicated. Root crops enjoyed special love among the people. Before the advent of potatoes, which in Russia was appreciated only three centuries ago, turnip was the most popular; they ate it literally in all forms, including turning it into a pleasant dessert with the help of honey.
On the basis of turnips and other garden gifts, a certain prototype of modern okroshka was prepared. Boiled vegetables were chopped, seasoned abundantly with fresh onions and garlic, and then poured with sour homemade kvass. Botvinya was another first dish popular in Russia. Its bulk consisted of crumbled boiled fish of various varieties and crayfish meat, as well as ice cubes, which were served in a separate bowl. Rye kvass was still used as a "broth", only various greens were added to it, first of all - sorrel.
Cabbage was a great help, in the season - fresh, and from autumn to spring - sauerkraut. The first and the second was prepared from it, the fillings for pies and kulebyak were made. Most often, cabbage soups were, although thick, but lean, they were seasoned with vegetable oil, and somewhere from the 19th century - also with potatoes. Just do not think that noble people ignored this simple meal - cabbage soup was one of the most popular liquid dishes, and most often they were made without meat. In winter, such a brew was even frozen for future use.
All Russia ate porridge with pleasure - they acted not as a side dish, but as a self-sufficient meal. The energy value of cereals was so obvious that they were included in the menu of "sovereigns" - soldiers and sailors by order. Army men cooked porridge twice a day, at lunch it was an addition to stew or cabbage soup, and for dinner this dish was served with bacon and vegetables. The most accessible were rye and barley, and it was they that became the basis of the diet.
Noble gentlemen did not disdain porridge either, although in rich houses they prepared it “exquisitely” - with meat, nuts or sweets. However, everything here depended on taste - Peter I, for example, preferred well-boiled “soldier's” barley. In fairness, it must be said that it was served to the emperor with meat, mushrooms and pumpkin. Alexander III was a much bigger gourmet, for whom the chef prepared mainly Guryev porridge - semolina with creamy foams, crushed nuts, fresh and dried fruit, honey.
No bread - no lunch
Baking bread is not the fastest thing, especially if you have to cook for many mouths. The hostesses in Russia started the dough in huge tubs so that the loaves would last for a week. Previously, such alcohol was infused with herbs (for example, St. John's wort or mint), diluted with sweet molasses.
The celebrations were not complete without a variety of fruit drinks, sweetened cabbage juice, jelly and slightly fermented whey with raisins. In cold weather, sbitni, hot drinks based on the same honey with the addition of spices and forest herbs - warming, tonic, and medicinal - were served to the table.
I must say that in Russia they never disdained a good feast. On holidays, in order for the food to be truly plentiful and rich, the peasants arranged a "brotherhood" - collectively set the tables, collecting "food rent" from each yard. As for the lord's feasts, they really shocked with their luxury - at boyar "gatherings" they served two or three hundred dishes, and at the tsars' - up to five hundred different dishes..