Traditional Russian cuisine, an important part of Russian culture, arouses a keen interest both in Russia itself and around the world. Russian cuisine is considered to be have the same authenticity and originality as Russian culture.
In times past, grain - wheat, rye, oats and millet - was the main foodstuff in Russia. Russian people were engaged in ploughing since time immemorial and so bread played a very significant part in their diet. The festive table couldn't be imagined without pies and other pasties. Pies were cooked with a cook cereals, all sorts of pancakes and baked puddings. Cattle-breeding was always popular in Russia as was hunting - hence a large choice of meat dishes included those of wild animals and fowl.
Large areas covered by woods and forests, especially in the north of Russia, were abundant in berries and mushrooms and this accounted for a wealth of "gifts of the forests" on the Russian table. One should also not forget about the fish courses. Russian cuisine was renowned for diverse delicacies, especially refreshments, made of fish. Russian rivers, lakes and seas yielded much of this tasty and useful kind of food.
Centuries have passed... Russian culture has changed. Growing contacts with Western countries led to numerous borrowings in Russian cooking. In the times of Peter the Great contemporary cookers became widespread in Russia and together with them saucepans, frying-pans, straining spoons and other indispensable kitchen utensils were introduced. At the beginning of the nineteenth century Russian cooks derived various sauces and dressings for which French cuisine was famous. These innovations became an important addition to traditional Russian spices - horse-radish and mustard. All of this undoubtedly enriches Russian cookery.
One of the oldest and genuinely Russian dishes is bliny (pancakes). Nobody knows when bliny appeared on Russian tables but it is a well known fact that they had been used as a ritual dish among the heathen Slavonic tribes. White wheat bread was spread much later. But white bread had been diversified in different regions of Russia, for example, "Moscowskaya saika" and "kalach", "Smolenskie krendeli", "Valdaiskie baranki" and others.
Speaking about Russian pastry, one cannot help mentioning pies that are the visit card of Russian cuisine. They baked pies in Russia with various stuffings, for example with meat, fish, herring, viziga (dried spinal chord of cartilaginous fish), sparling, eggs, cottage cheese, mushrooms, porridge, turnips, onions and cabbage. Pies could be served as a dessert if they were stuffed with berries or fruits, such as apples, bilberries, blueberries, raspberries, guelder rose, red bilberries, cherries, plums and bird cherries. Big pies and small patties are still one of the most favorite dishes in Russia that you can taste in expensive restaurants or at friends' house.
One of the distinctive traits of Russian cuisine is a great demand for different soups. First courses, such as "pohlebka", "hlebova" and "navar" were always on the menu list. Russian soups can be divided into two groups, cold and hot ones. Cold soups ("svekolnik" and "okroshka") are mostly cooked on "kvass". Hot soups include "schi", "borsch", "rassolnik", "solyanka" and "ukha". Even now it is impossible to imagine Russian dinner, let it be an expensive or a poor one, without any soup.
Russian traditional cuisine is also famous for its kasha (porridges). At first sight, porridge does not seem to be a holiday dish. But in Russia they always cooked porridges in different manners and it was always very delicious.
It would be an incomplete story about Russian cuisine and Russian culture if we did not mention vodka that is considered the main national beverage of Russians. It must be noticed that firstly vodka had not been considered the Russian national beverage.