How was Slavic food affected by Soviet rule?

Russian recipes were brutally simplified under the Soviet rule.

The Soviet rule was the time of rapid modernization and urbanization of Russia. It also greatly impoverished society for a few decades. The old aristocracy was exterminated. Jews supplanted Germans as the educated urban minority and main conduit of European influence in the USSR.

  • Fine dining either vanished, or was practiced only among few members of the ruling elite.
  • Many old Russian recipes were brutally simplified, to allow for very limited access to most of food items. For example, in the Salad Olivier (better known as Russian salad), the gravy based on veal broth became mayo, crayfish became carrots, and partridge became chicken.
  • Jewish recipes of ground meat and low-grade freshwater fish in soups and main courses became a ubiquitous item on the cafeteria menus and in the army.
  • Potato became the food of choice, in addition to bread.
  • Social mobility brought us “shashlik” (Caucasian barbecue) and “plov”(Central-Asian risotto) as the typically Soviet party food. For real menfolk in Russia, to know how to prepare these ones “the right way” is a requirement.
  • Food from Georgia—a mix of Turkic and Mediterranean traditions, with a lot of spices, fresh vegetables, and herbs—became the popular idea of haut cuisine.

About our post-Soviet food preferences: Which kind of food do Russian like?

Picture: Dressed herring, the staple of our Christmas season, one of the recipes made famous by Russians, but originally Jewish.

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