Friday, September 09, 2011

Soviet Kitchen Items

The new book “Made in Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design” has been getting some buzz. You can see a nice gallery of photos and stories from the book in Foreign Policy magazine. I can’t get my hands on a copy yet, but the preview inspired me to rummage through my parents’ kitchen in search of unsung icons of Soviet cookware design.

Perhaps the most iconic of my finds is this drinking glass—granyonyi stakan (гранёный стакан). This thick, 14-sided glass was manufactured and sold throughout the Soviet Union.
I’ve gleaned some factoids about these glasses from--where else?--Wikipedia (in Russian and English).

-These glasses are said to be designed by Vera Mukhina, creator of the famous Soviet sculpture “Worker and Kolhoz Woman”.

-They’re sturdy and made to survive falls on hard flooring, which is why they were commonly used on trains and in food service.

-Most importantly, according to Wikipedia: “An image of granyonyi stakan in popular culture is associated either with vodka and pickled cucumbers, or with tea and podstakannik.”

Speaking of which, this is the podstakannik (подстаканник), a glass holder, usually used on trains for serving hot tea.

Next find—a 1970s-era book called “Advice to a Young Housewife,” which contains recipes and good housekeeping tips. Check out the loopy illustration on the cover. (Previously, I blogged about Soviet recipe postcards from the '70s and '80s--canapes, potatoes and soups.)

An enamel camping mug—note the picture of black currants, the classic Russian berry.

If the above artifacts strike you as unironically stodgy, I must point out that not everything made in the Soviet Union was ugly. Check out these delicately painted porcelain tea and espresso cups, produced in the USSR in the 1960s.

The proof is in the logo--LFZ (ЛФЗ in Russian)--Leningradski Farforovyi Zavod, or the Leningrad Porcelain Factory.
Finally,  money. As my father noted, none of the above could be acquired without a ruble or two. Here, you can see one, five and ten-ruble bills, plus a ruble coin. I encourage you check out Wikipedia for on Soviet money Let me note that the paper bills include writing in the different languages of each of the Soviet republics—cultural sensitivity on the part of the USSR’s Department of the Treasury!

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