December 01, 1996

The Pig That Comes Home

“Nature arranged everything in the best possible way,” wrote a 19th century Russian cookbook author. “Of this the pig serves as proof. All its parts are so good that none should be thrown away.”

And it’s true, this wonderful animal still plays a major role in Russians’ lives. And, although pigs are often insulted by comparisons to slobs, it’s difficult to imagine how Russia could manage without them, either today or 100 years ago. Their meat can be fried, boiled or steamed, and all their by-products come in handy. From pig’s legs you can make wonderful dishes like studen. Svinoye salo (pig’s fat) can be eaten just as it is, you can fry things in it, or you can use it as a treatment for colds.

But pigs haven’t always been honored and respected in Russia. During the Tatar yoke (1240-1480), they were, according to Muslim beliefs, considered unclean animals, and it was thought bad taste to serve pork at tables of princes or boyars. But then, near the end of the 16th century, when the yoke became history, the suckling pig (porosyonok) came to adorn Russian feast tables. 

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