The Importance of Food to Russian Culture – Part 1

The food of a country highlights its culture, and if a family sits down around a table each night and talks about their day this is much more than just breaking bread together. It is a social gathering where each member of the family can discuss important issues that effect them each and every day.

It also allows the parents to provide guidance and help to their children, and to ensure that they are not falling away from the family values that they have been taught. However, in more civilized communities the father and mother rarely sit down with their children because of work commitments, and rather than a nourishing home cooked meal the children are more likely to eat fast food.

What food is put on the table in various different countries may define their country, it can be made from old traditional recipes using ingredients that were grown locally at the time. In fact food can get even more specific, it can define regions and area, who lived there in the past and what culinary influences they brought with them.

Russia is a huge land mass and is positioned right of the middle between East and West. Many different peoples have come to settle in Russia and live in wide ranging climates and conditions from the subtropics to the extreme North.

Ancient Russia

Like many peasant people in ancient times Russians used to gather around rivers that cut through the plains to settle. They were mostly farmers, hunters, and fishermen, and most of the dishes would be made from rye or flour supplemented with a scrap of meat or a fish.

Rye was popular all over the country as it could even grow in colder regions of the North. Other staples would have been milk, and root vegetables if they could be grown.

Russia and the Church

When Christianity arrived in Russia the food changed quite dramatically. The Orthodox Russian Church changed the eating culture, food was now divided into two distinct brackets. Non-vegetarian produce such as milk, eggs, and meat. And what was allowed to be consumed during lent, which was mostly vegetarian food such as mushrooms, fish, vegetables, and bread.

It was during this period that soup began to be served on Russian tables, the most famous being shchi which is a kind of broth made out of cabbage. Modern day shchi bares little resemblance to the original version as it was basically a peasant dish.

The Great Divide

As the country evolved, Russia began to be split into two classes, the aristocracy and the peasants. Initially the food both classes ate was basically the same just in different proportions. But gradually the culture of Russian food changed depending on how privileged you were. 

This is no different to any society that starts to evolve and develop, whether or not you agree with the politics or not, you simply have to face facts. This has been the way of the world since men were drawing animals on cave walls.