The Russian potential

Ample resources and science’s founding fathers. Inside the pavilion of the largest country in the world

01-07-2015
The entrance to the pavilion of the Russian Federa

The entrance to the pavilion of the Russian Federation at Expo. The pavilion is focused on the large food resources of the country and on the historic role of the great scientists Mendeleev, Vavilov and Vernadskij

When Russia will truly become aware of the treasures it holds, hard times will arrive for everyone. This is the first thought the author of this piece had when entering the ambitious pavilion, dedicated to «the strength of the earth of the country, to its expanses and its endless resources», as rightly indicated in the information panels right behind the 'concierge'.

From Caucasus to Kamchatka one can count 180 populations, dividend into 11 regions, 17 million square kilometres accommodating the largest reserves of freshwater in the northern terrestrial hemisphere (one fifth of the total, more or less), the largest production of grains and around one tenth of the arable soil in the world. A heritage that makes the eyes of the most enlightened chefs of the post-soviet generation shine (we wrote about it here).

Inside the pavilion, the bar with its sci-fi architecture offers periodic tastings of national specialties

Inside the pavilion, the bar with its sci-fi architecture offers periodic tastings of national specialties

More than the chefs, the Russian pavilion highlights the role of its huge scientists, who were capable of changing the course of knowledge, and not just in the West. This itinerary aims at educating, not surprising. How could you not smile in front of the huge periodic table by Dmitrij Ivanovič Mendeleev, the joy (or the nightmare, it depends) of each high school student? The assumption is that global science with regards to health and food safety is totally based on the combination of these chemical elements, which were first catalogued together in the 19th century by the Russian scientist. For sure he was happy about this: «Our land», he said, «was generated by all the elements in my periodic system». What he didn’t say is that from this, one of the greatest gastronomic diversity in the world could derive.

As stressed in the pavilion, among Mother Russia’s great wise men there’s also Nikolai Ivanovic Vavilov, a botanist who founded the richest seed collection in the world. He collected over 3 thousand species, 30% of which can no longer be found in nature. A good prologue to present the country’s traditional drinks, such as mors, cranberry juice, or kvas, a lightly alcoholic drink (2% vol.) made by fermenting all sorts of vegetables. All these are available for tasting, periodically and for free, in the water bar-laboratory on the ground floor.

The trio of great scientists is completed with the help of mineralogist and geochemist Vladimir Ivanovič Vernadskij, the author of a remarkable theory that rationalised the consumption of food and earth resources. After the magnificent educational journey, one arrives at the restaurant area, with a few tables and a small room with the decor inspired by a train coach. The tastings available in the menu, however, don’t do justice to the huge culinary heritage of the country, which is finely summed up in the book titled "Russia’s Cuisine – Tradition and Modernity", that we reviewed here.

A few examples? Russian salad (Stolichniy), Marinated salmon with blinis, Shchi (a soup made with sauerkraut, smoked duck fillet and sour cream), Stroganoff with mashed potatoes or Rissole (veal patties) served with buckwheat. Prices are between 9 and 14 euros per dish but it is not the main reason why one should venture here, almost to the far end of the Decumano.


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