The summa of Russian cuisine

The great richness of the largest country on earth is enclosed in a volume created for Expo 2015

10-06-2015
Russia’s Cuisine – Tradition and Modernity, pu

Russia’s Cuisine – Tradition and Modernity, published in English by Chernovic & Co. is the volume, created specifically for Expo, that analyses all of Russia’s cuisine, both traditional and contemporary

Today is the National day of Russia at Expo 2015. It came natural, therefore to peruse Russia’s Cuisine – Tradition and Modernity, published in English by Sergei Chernov’s Chernovic & Co.

It is a weighty volume, created specifically for Expo 2015; almost 500 pages with a rich selection of photographs, trying to do something never accomplished before: enclosing in just one book the summa of all the culinary tradition of the largest country in the world, an inter-ethnical mosaic in which many have made their influence, yet without losing their national gastronomic identity.

Georgy Kalamanov, general commissioner for the Russian Pavilion at Expo 2015 thus explains: «This book includes hundreds of recipes describing the cuisine of eleven regions, highlighting their authenticity, the connection with the products of their territory and the historical connection with these people. Over one third of the recipes are now pillars in our national cuisine». Indeed we are speaking of a huge heritage, though in some sense it is little known, over there as elsewhere.

So this good job is very welcome, with the contribution of nine different authors. It also represents a detailed list of many potential Slow Food Presidiums: smelt from Saint Petersburg, crabs from Kamchatka, honey from Bashkir, butter from Vologda, gingerbread from Tula, lavaret from Omul, sour cream and fermented milk, herrings from the Caspian Sea, Antonov apples, Murom cucumbers, bread from Borodino, kumis (similar to Turkish kefir, made by fermenting mare’s milk) from Volga, as well as the famous caviar, blinis and vodka.

And then there are many types of bread, even stuffed ones. And mushrooms, a thousand recipes made with meat or potatoes, kissel (a sort of gelatinous and sweet pudding), soups (boršč is the most famous one, with beetroots), the typical kvass drink…

One could go on at length, as with the endless list of people who have influenced this composite tradition, as Russia has always proven a strong inclination to absorb new trends. So much so that Russian cuisine means vareniki (originally from Ukraine, very popular in the South) or pelmeni (from the Urals), which are very similar to our ravioli, but also bear steaks from Jacuzia, dishes made with ramson (wild garlic) and camelina oil, beloved by the Siberians.

And then we have the nomad roots in Ossetia found in dzykka, made with sour cream, cheese and flour, it appears it was introduced by the Alans, a barbaric people. While Astrakhan, not too distant, is the kingdom of black caviar.

Turkey with red currants, lard, potato cakes and dandelion sauce by Vladimir Mukhin
 

Turkey with red currants, lard, potato cakes and dandelion sauce by Vladimir Mukhin

 

The recipes aim at enhancing these flavours. Igor Bukharov, president of the Russian restaurant and hotel federation says: «We have around 180 different ethnic groups; each has his own, very often unique, tradition, especially gastronomically. This was developed by alternating moments of isolationism with others of openness, sometimes closing up in one’s identity, sometimes looking at world».

The last chapter is dedicated to the new Russian cuisine, because today we assist to a widespread desire to reinforce their identity through innovative concepts and technologies, taking into consideration the evolution of taste, with seasonality, local products and a farm-to-table logic. And the book of course ends with the greatest representative of Russian contemporary cuisine: Vladimir Mukhin of the White Rabbit in Moscow, number 23 and the highest new entry in the 50 Best, who will be in charge of the kitchen at Identità Expo on 23rd-27th September.


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