The last few days have been largely uneventful, so here’s a run down on Russian food and other options in the city.
The above picture is of a bowl of cold borsh. Borsh is a type of soup widely consumed in Russia although of Ukrainian origin (or so I’m told). Apparently there are many varieties, but the variety I am familiar with is based on beef or chicken broth and contains beets (hence the bright red color), carrots, and potatoes. It is usually eaten hot and the bowl pictured above is the first I have eaten it cold. Either way it’s absolutely delicious. I find it to be earthy and rich with no unusual or offensive flavors.
Many other types of soup are commonly eaten–fish soup, cabbage soup, beef soup with pickles, chicken soup, etc, etc. As I recollect, when I lived in Russia, soup with bread was the most common meal I was given in people’s homes.
Other common foods include salads (more frequently akin to potato salad than to lettuce salads), potatoes (pureed, boiled, fried), cabbage dishes (frequently with fermented cabbage), and various meat dishes from shish-kebabs to ground meat cutlets.
Bread is generally eaten with meals and the two most popular varieties are white and black, with white being the density and color of a baguette and black being a heavy, firm bread made in part with rye flour.
Pastries are ubiquitous and include small “pies” filled with meat or vegetables.
Throughout the city are “cafeterias”. They are a popular place for the average person to eat as they are quick and inexpensive. They’re really self-serve buffets where you pay for each portion/dish individually, often by weight. I love them because they serve all the hearty Russian staples. I’ve eaten in one at least one meal every day so far and I’ve made the rest of the bunch go with me.
In a large city like St Petersburg, you can find pretty much any type of food if you look. Since I was in Russia last, fast food chains like KFC, Burger King, and Pizza Hut have really infiltrated the city and can be found anywhere.
Apparently one of the most common choices Russians make when they go out for a meal with friends is Georgian cuisine, probably similar in popularity to going to a Mexican restaurant in the States. We haven’t been to one yet, but when I lived in Moscow in 2002, that’s where I would go with friends. Georgian cuisine is varied, but popular staples include steamed dumplings and a dish made with filo dough and cheese.
Our kids have done pretty well with everything we’ve eaten, but when we give them the choice, we end up at Pizza Hut (Jane), or Burger King (Nolan and Margaret).
On Tuesday, Jane and I split off from the rest of the family to visit a town called Repino, named for a famous Russian artist, Ilya Repin. He’s one of my favorites and I’m not sure where a true student of art would place him, but I would group him between realists and impressionists. In any case, when we got there, his home-turned-museum was closed, so we walked in a park and then along a beach, ate lunch and came back to town.
In town we checked out a flea market. Second hand clothing was a big part of the market and the nice stalls had high end clothes carefully grouped by category, size and brand.
The other stalls I found interesting included one with old Soviet knick knacks like stamp collection books, pins, and figurines. Another was run by a man who bought all the art at a school that had shut down in Moscow. Much of it was unfinished works. I loved the sketches.
I bought a small one with animal sketches dated 1949 for a few bucks and would have bought a few more, but didn’t want to have to cart them around and try not to ruin them for the next 11 months.
Today, we got caught up on home schooling.
I really hope kids are as resilient as they say they are. I’ll tell you this much: if you have to choose between having me as your teacher or having an actual third grade elementary teacher, choose the real teacher.
I think our kids are actually learning, despite our ineptitude as teachers, but home schooling with the Andersons involves many tears and melt downs.
I’m just hoping that what our kids learn outside of home school makes up for it.
This evening, we went to a church conference. I met up with Gennady Petrov, a mission compassion whom I haven’t seen since 1997. It was great to see him. Hopefully we’ll meet up again before we leave the city.