The Importance of Food to Russian Culture – Part 2

The culture of food in Russia has developed from ancient times. It evolved depending how privileged you were or what ingredients were available in the part of Russia that you lived. As the whole culture of Russia has been influenced by the different peoples that came to settle from far and wide, so has its food.

The Boyar Table

As time progressed in Russia there came the emergence of tsars and those that were in his close confidence became known as boyars. Basically the boyars were the king’s lackeys and whatever the tsar said, they did. However, these people became incredibly privileged, and one way of showing off their opulence was to hold grand lunches.

These foodie gatherings were called boyartables, they could last several hours and were known to have contained as many as fifty dishes. On the table would have been whole roasted birds such as swans, and geese. Together with sturgeon, beluga and exotic fruits from the East.

It was highly important that the table was decorated ornately as possible, with embellishments of gold foil and other lavish adornments.

Peter the Great

During the reign of Peter the Great the food of Russia changed again, all be it for the ruling classes and the gentry. The tsar favored European traditions, and for the upper classes food changed dramatically.

The king kept the Russian Table for the peasants, and he also let they stay in traditional dress and for the males to keep their beards.

The introduction of French chefs to the households of the nobility saw a growth of speaking French in the upper classes. Interestingly minced beef dishes were popular at the time, even in patty type formats such as burgers.

The Rise of the Patriot

It was during the Napoleonic wars that a great surge of nationalism swept over Russia, and this sparked a revival of everything that was traditionally Russian, including food. And when serfdom was abolished in 1861 this even strengthened the populace to return to old values and traditional food.

The Russian Empire

As the Russian expansion into neighboring countries continued, more foreign influences came into Russian cuisine. And dishes like special pies, salmon roe, and pelmeni emerged that were integrated into what now is understood to be Russian cuisine. And at that time the food of Russia was considered to be one of the best in the world.

The Bolshevik’s and the Soviets

Russian cuisine took a battering during the political transformation of the Bolshevik’s and the Soviets, there were fewer products and luxury food items were scarce.

But in the mid-20th Century the government issued a list of foods that were deemed healthy for the people of Russia to eat. So by creating a typical Russian table, dishes started to become common for everybody that included fish in abundance.

Today there is a developing trend in Russian cuisine to make it better known throughout the world. And to highlight traditional food but prepared in a modern and delicious way. Russia’s changes through the ages without doubt affected its cuisine, and in return the cuisine affected the whole culture of Russia.