For a while in Canada, I worked as a cook’s assistant. I had to deal with vegetables, chopping them finely. And clearing tables.
One day, my boss asked me about Russian cuisine.
What do you say we serve some Russian dishes in our restaurant?
Russian cooking is very simple. It’s the same old dish over and over. A soup of tears, followed by a spaghetti of prison wire. Dessert is wafers made out of iron and lead scraps.
Get serious, you’re thinking.
I am. What I can tell you is that I never lived in Russia. I lived in the USSR. A big difference. There were hundreds of nations and each of them had its own national cuisine.
1. Ukrainian borscht
You can Google a recipe for Ukrainian borsch. But cooking real Ukrainian borsch is like writing the song “Yesterday.” Not everyone can do it.
First, you must prepare a bouillon by stewing meat. Then you add the vegetables: beets (“buriak”), potatoes, fresh cabbage, sauerkraut, carrots, onions, tomatoes (or tomato paste, sauce, or juice) and garlic. Then comes the seasoning: parsley, dill, celery, parsnips, and dried herbs. I personally prefer to put in anything that’s nearby.
Borsch should be served with black bread and a slice of bacon. You have to put in a lot of cream and pour yourself a big glass of Ukrainian vodka (“gorilka”). You need to raise this glass of this gorilka and exclaim “Glory to Ukraine!” Then you can drink your vodka and slurp up your borsch.
2. Belarusian potato pancakes (“draniky”).
In Yiddish, they’re called latkes. Who doesn’t like draniks (latkes)? OK, you’ll need a lot of potatoes. Grate them. Add minced pork and put it on the element (stovetop). The pancakes take 30 minutes. When they’re ready, transfer them onto a plate and get out the vodka (Belarussians call it “samogon”). Say “Down with Lukashenko!” and dig in.
3. Central Asian pilaf.
Real pilaf is like the Arabian Tales of a Thousand and One Nights. Never boring! And it lasts forever! To cook pilaf there are a few things you need: lamb, jasmine rice, onions, carrots, tomatoes and sunflower oil. If you want to fly to heaven, make sure that you add a pinch of Jamaican ganja. When the pilaf is ready, pour yourself a glass of vodka. Say “Freedom for the peoples of Central Asia!” And then dig right in.
4. Gefilte fish
You need one carrot, one onion, an egg, one kilogram of minced carp, a little vegetable oil, salt, pepper and sugar. If you properly prepare your gefilte fish, I assure you even the carp will be glad he was caught. When the dish is ready, pour yourself a glass of kosher wine. Say, “Hurrah the Jewish people!” Then start eating.
5. Real Russian cabbage soup (“shchi”)
You can find shchi in the home of any Russian family from Kaliningrad to Kamchatka. This is the simplest dish and one of my favorites. For the preparation of this soup you need quite a bit: crock, water, salt, cabbage, potatoes, onions, a Russian oven and birch firewood. You can eat shchi fresh or one week later, the point being that the longer your shchi languishes in the oven, the better it tastes.
Before you eat Russian shchi you must pour yourself a glass of vodka. You can pour two, three, four, five. In Russia, there’s no limit to how many glasses of vodka are drunk. You must scream “Fuck Huylo!” before downing your soup. As the Russian saying goes: “Na zdorovie!”