The tasty heart of Russia

A short journey across dishes that warm the heart of the Muscovites in the days following the Berezutskiys’ dinners at Identità Golose Milano

27-11-2018

Last week at Identità Golose Milano, the International Hub of Gastronomy in Via Romagnosi 3, twins Sergey and Ivan Berezutskiyof Twins Garden in Moscow signed the special dinner menu from Wednesday 21st to Saturday 24th November – for info and reservations for the next events visit the official website. It was a precious, unique opportunity to approach a fermenting and growing gastronomic scene like the one of Russia, of which the two twins from Twins Garden represent the avantgarde. To find out more about the four dinners, read: Eating Russia: the Berezutskiy brothers at Identità Golose Milano. To find out more about the gastronomic scene of the largest country in the world see The summa of Russian cuisine. But we also asked for her take to an Italian who knows that area well. Enjoy 

There’s no journey without a food-related memory. Places are meaningless backgrounds if we skip a food stop; a stop which, in time, will feed our memory and give us a map of delicious morsels eaten here and there, on the path of the senses. Every cuisine depicts the destination: its inner features, hard times and history that turn into dishes, identity, a natural appendix of body and soul.

So, when I think of Russia and those three months covered in layers of wool, the cuisine comes to my mind like a warm glove; for instance, kapusta, white cabbage, that is to say the warmest welcome of all. Every leaf, blanched in lots of salted water, becomes a veil wrapping a small amount of minced meat cooked with herbs, celery and carrots; a wrapping swimming, in the end, in seed oil. These winter rolls, once stewed, loose their bitter attitude, which is won once and for all by lots of sour cream.

I also think of the heart of Moscow, scattered with underground taverns, with students and lively people feasting away from the cold and their worries. Shoulder to shoulder, they seem to form just one being that takes comfort by sipping kvass, and smoking tobacco. Meanwhile, a hundred and more lungs grow with molecules of melted butter soaking plenty of cotletke, the perfect crossing between a meatball and a burger, while the trachea warms up with melted egg yolk and cheese, when bitingkhachapuri, the Georgian eye-shaped pizza.

I think of the Gorkij literary institute, where it’s best to renounce to the last five minutes of literature history, leaving the empty chairs during an old declamation of Mayakovsky. Appetite, instead, rushes you to the canteen, unless you want to fill your stomach with fish-soup with plenty of bones and no fish. And once in the queue, here comes the stewed liver with jasmine rice, celeriac and beetroot salad and the Tuesday special: pelmeni stuffed with potatoes. These ravioli, often with a humble heart, are filling but disappear too soon from the plate of the starving students laughing on the burgundy-coloured armchairs in the dehors of what, at night, once ladles and bowls are set aside, is dressed up as a jazz club.

Now, of course there are matrioskas and busbies, but there’s also a memory based on the deliciousness of a domestic fairy tale: there are three women, a velvety Persian rug and an enveloping and strong hospitality.

They live in a square space that is both dining room and bedroom; on Sundays the table is always set for a feast. There, after the alcoholic initiation based on denatured vodka, morš (currant juice) and Armenian cognac, I set my memory of Russia. Blini: the soft pancakes that are like a smoky skin for a pearl of butter. And on these golden and smoky puffs fall drops of coral, the sturgeon eggs that open, exploding one after the other. It’s a mouthful of warm sea on the background of a luxurious cornucopia: prawns fried in beer, muttons soup, borščt, cream of buckwheat.

It’s all about exceeding, over there, but every excess is less serious when without rationality you abandon yourself to a food coma for the pure enjoyment of spending some time around a table. Leaving the world outside.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso 


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