Meet the curious and strange art of Russian borrowing
Each country has a culinary identity - both in the nuances of taste, with typical ingredients, and in the style of food presentation. Russia, of all, is the nation that stands out in this last aspect. Not for being careful about the aesthetics of the dishes, but completely irreverent about it: there is simply no aesthetics at all.
To investigate the reasons for this curious cultural aspect of the Russians, Mikel Lópes, El País columnist along with Xavi Sorinas, went straight to the source: Russia. They then called a restaurant in Madrid, Rasputín.
Asked about the veracity of certain photos showing rather odd jobs, the store's manager, Alejandro Rodríguez, said that style by no means represents Russian cuisine. "I'm over 40 years old working in Russian kitchens and I've never seen anything like it, " he said. The pair of investigators, however, were not content with such an outcome.
History is a mystery box
Xenia Vistgof, a culinary blogger living in Russia, was willing to help. She pointed out that in some celebrations there was in fact a tradition of making creative loans with salads, pastries and empanadas.
During the tsarist era it was customary to perform such events at banquets. In addition, Easter bread and biscuits were made in the shape of birds, as they represented the beginning of spring. “With the height of haute cuisine, this tradition is coming back, in many cases a bit extreme as some of the examples you sent, ” said the blogger.
“In 1812, after Russia's victory over Napoleon, there was a revival of Russian national cuisine, ” she says. “Court emissaries were sent to Russian villages to collect traditional recipes from each region. At the Russian court worked a legion of the best French chefs, who managed to change the most iconic recipes and make them worthy of the tsar table. The most simple and traditional dishes have been revised to adapt to the refined new tastes of the nobles. This can also be seen in the presentation of the dishes, where originality prevailed above all, "Xenia explains.
Traditional Russian dishes were influenced, such as buckwheat-stuffed piglets, cakes and fruit desserts. In this joke, not even the legendary creation of Belgian-Russian chef Lucian Oliver (the so-called “Russian salad” in Spanish lands) was unharmed. However, the October Revolution of 1917 ended the banquets and other luxuries of the time. Unusual maids only showed up again in the 1950s, when they were rescued in cookbooks. “The Russian is very fond of the artistic and, by tradition, the exaggeration at the table. This is true both in quantity and ostentation. ” Mystery solved!