One of our favourite blogs to read about life in Russia is American Russian Observations. We link to it because we feel its worth promoting and feel a kinship in values. The main authors, an American/Russian couple living in Saint Petersburg, like to write about food and cooking from time to time. Yesterday they wrote about salt.
Salt is an essential ingredient to Russian cooking. In fact, salt and garlic are perhaps the two most used “spices” in Russian cooking. Now maybe we’re off on that as we haven’t accessed any marketing studies, but based on our kitchen habits in Moscow and those of our contributing reporters in Belarus, Ukraine and Georgia, we can’t be that far afield.
It is common to prepare a meal, at least 3 times daily, in a Russian kitchen. Sure, there are restaurants and supermarkets all over Russia but eating out and pre-made packaged meals are not as popular as in the West.
As the American Observations writer pointed out, “Russians have a mindset that packaged prepared foods are sort of dumb… expensive, not very tasty, and not satisfying. To most of them kitchen time is worth it. I hear meanwhile that Americans like to brag by saying how quickly they made a meal. What are they saving time for?”
Meanwhile in the vast and spacious (not really) Mendeleyev Journal test kitchen we do enjoy the Georgian spice packats available at the markets. Among our favourites is one called Khmeli Suneli and the ingredients of herbs and spices include: coriander, dill, basil, bay leaf, marjoram, fenugreek, parsley, saffron, black pepper, celery, thyme, hyssop, mint, and hot pepper.
Of course honey is an important ingredient in a Russian kitchen, too. Used as a sweetner and as a medicine, honey is used in everything from baking to serving in tea. Tea is without question the national drink of Russia (even tops vodka!), and yet another topic of which the Mendeleyev Journal hopes to explore in bringing our readers as close as possible to the Russian experience.
Meanwhile to get you started on cooking, here are 3 cookbook recommendations from the Mendeleyev kitchen:
Food and Cooking of Russia is an excellent tutorial on a variety of Russian dishes. This Russian cook book has over 200 Russian recipes found within its pages.
The Best of Russian Cooking is yet another great Russian cook book and author Alexandra Kropotkin has included 300 very easy Russian recipes.
The Russian Heritage Cookbook, a complete library of 360 traditional Russian dishes. This cook book blends recipes from Russian immigrants in America, blending Russian tradition with American style and flair.