Thursday, July 31, 2008


Here’s a list of my recent food cravings: dilled potatoes, sour cream, homemade pickles and kefir. No, I’m not pregnant. It’s just that I’ve been to Russia. All I want to eat is simple, Slavic peasant food, heavy on the beets, fermented dairy products and rye bread. This week I made svekolnik (also known as cold borsch) and farmer's cheese, and spruced up old posts on these dishes.

Monday, July 28, 2008

My Eastern European Adventure in Brief

Background: Born in St. Petersburg in the early 1980s. Immigrated to the U.S. at age 9 in the early 1990s.

Itinerary, July 2008: Tallinn, Estonia, and St. Petersburg and Moscow, Russia. This is my first time in Estonia and my first back in Russia since the move.

Travel companions: Parents, born and raised in Russia.

My verdict: Russia is a foreign country in which I happen to speak the language.

Parents' verdict: The exterior has changed (shops full of consumer goods), but the Soviet mindset and bureaucracy are alive and well. (Note: This doesn't apply to Estonia. Tallinn looked and felt like a perfectly civilized, European city.)

Best thing eaten in Tallinn: Something called "Witches' Pudding," a mashed potato/mushroom/cheese casserole. Can anyone point me to a recipe?
Best surprise in Tallinn: Biting into these little fruit tartlets, filled with farmer's cheese instead of butter cream.
Best way to spend an evening in St. Petersburg: Walk down Nevsky Prospect, to the Hermitage, then to the Neva River.
Other ways to have fun: Go grocery shopping and gaze at half a dozen varieties of farmer's cheese (including raspberry and poppy seed flavors).

Best way to stick to a food budget in Russia: Eat rye bread (17 rubles, a little less than a dollar) and chocolate-covered sirki (about 5 rubles, or 30 cents). Wash this down with kvass--rye bread beer, lightly carbonated, mildly sweet and very refreshing (20 to 40 rubles, depending on the vendor).
Best way to blow a food budget in Russia: Eat anything else. Why is Eastern Europe still considered cheap? (It's not.)

Best surprise in Russia: The fast food chain Teremok, which sells sweet and savory blini and soups. Ideal meal: Borsh, blini with goose liver pate and half a liter of kvass. Other ways to pass time in St. Petersburg: See palaces.
Go on long walks in parks: Read some Pushkin: Things to avoid: Interactions with clerks, cashiers and office workers of any sort. You will be ignored at best; yelled at at worst.

Parents' final verdict: Farewell, Russia. No love lost.

My verdict: Someday, I'll be back. If only for the goose liver blini.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Back in the USSR

Hey, did I ever blog about my upcoming trip to Estonia and Russia? No? Okay. I leave...tomorrow. I'm off to Tallinn and St. Petersburg and maybe Moscow. I haven't been back to Russia since I moved to the U.S. when I was nine. I hope to return with pictures and stories and yummy food memories, but I really don't know what to expect.

Wish me luck, and see you in late July.
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