…when Russians ate at home, the search for ingredients was fraught with queuing and disappointment.
If you know me at all, you know that wandering the aisles of European markets is one of my favorite things to do. The chaotic mix of color, sounds, and smells excites me more than shopping for clothes or baubles or almost anything else. My love of markets was instrumental in choosing a particular tour while we were in St. Petersburg in June. I wanted to compare a Russian market to those I’ve experienced in other countries.
Our short trek through a local market proved to be an interesting but eerie adventure. There were no long lines there. Other than our small group of 12, the only other people in the market were the workers. The disappointment in searching for ingredients was present, though. Instead of shelves and bins overflowing with produce and meats and cheeses, we found many half-full or empty cases (above).
I invite you to take a short tour of what we saw through my photos.
Pirozhki, or meat pies, are Russian street food. Baked or fried, the little pies may contain either savory (beef, potatoes, eggs, oatmeal, fish) or sweet (stewed fruits, cottage cheese, jam) fillings.
Plastic wrap shrouded all fresh baked good except the meat pies.
The workers filling and replenishing the produce bins did so slowly and carefully as though they were handling fragile and precious gems. The man handling the cherries chose one and placed it into a spot where he knew it would fit without upsetting the entire bin.
Vegetables in Russian markets, while more expensive, are also fresher and of better quality than those one could find in a supermarket.
Much like chicken eggs except smaller (and prettier), quail eggs are popular in Russia today. To keep up with increased demand for quail eggs, poultry farms have added quail to their herds. By the way, reports indicate that Russian President Putin has them for breakfast daily along with cottage cheese and fruit juice. And if that breakfast sounds odd to you, let me give you a few additional tidbits about Russian culinary obsessions.
First, Russians are obsessed with mayonnaise. The average Russian consumes 2.5 kilograms (88 ounces or 5.5 pounds) of the egg- and oil-based condiment. Shuba is a salad consisting of layers of pickled herring, hard boiled eggs, potatoes, beetroot, carrots, and onions covered with mayonnaise. Other cooks use it in biscuits, cakes, soups and on meats, vegetables, and poultry.
Russians are also big fans of dill and use it in everything from pickles and soups to pastas and sweets. There is even cappuccino enhanced with a dill stalk.
Don’t tell anyone, but I’m not a fan of either. Dill. What a way to ruin a good cup of coffee.