If you are not familiar with Russian food, you may have the impression that the national cuisine of this thousand-year-old culture is stodgy, fattening and heavy. Perish the stereotype! We asked Darra Goldstein, author of A Taste of Russia, to address seven common myths:
It’s just meat and potatoes. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, a typical Russian feast starts with a table brimming with salads made from fresh vegetables, pickled foods, cheeses and smoked fish.
It’s heavy. Only if you want it to be. A well-prepared Russian meal draws on a wide range of fresh dairy, fish, and garden-grown products. It can be very rich, yes, but rich does not have to equal heavy. (See photo of Okroshka, a summer soup at right.)
It’s fattening. Not so. Russian cuisine emphasizes whole foods, whether grain, dairy or vegetables.
It’s just an excuse to drink vodka. Vodka is the national drink and for hundreds of years has been an integral part of the Russian dining experience (especially the rich array of infused vodkas), but that doesn’t mean it should be taken to excess. Vodka, by the way, is especially compatible with the preserved foods that are so central to Russian cuisine.
It’s too time-consuming. Fine for the Russian Tea Room. But for my home?! Unless you decide to labor for hours over a perfect coulibiac, home-style Russian cooking doesn’t take very much time at all. Soups can simmer on their own for hours, while fresh salads can be prepared in a flash.
It’s little more than 101 Ways to Cook Cabbage. Yes, cabbage, served fresh, preserved and cooked, has a strong supporting role on the Russian table, but it never steals the scene. Russian cuisine is anything but monochromatic.
It doesn’t offer any good desserts. Well, the proof is in the kasha, and if you’ve ever had Guriev kasha (pictured, right), you know Russians love creamy deserts, airy tortes and flaky pies. A Taste of Russia includes over three-dozen mouth-watering dessert recipes.
Know of other myths? Share them below. Meanwhile, you might also like a related post: 12 Myths About Vodka.