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Author Topic: Etiquette & Entertaining & RU cooking  (Read 12873 times)

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Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Etiquette & Entertaining & RU cooking
« Reply #30 on: January 22, 2009, 02:52:27 PM »
Preparing Mushrooms for cooking

Here is a good primer on how to find, pick and prepare wild mushrooms for recipes.  Obviously you must know what to look for in order to pick only non-poison varieties.


Here is some excellent mushroom info from RUA member Rasputin:
My wife and I went mushroom picking this past summer and fall. We collected a few bags full of wild mushrooms. The best ones are the boletes. These mushrooms are usually what they Russians call белый гриб. We have three varieties or boletes where I live: the King Boletus, the Birch Boletus and the Red Aspen Boletus. I have photos at home, and can post them if anybody is interested.

Fortunately, the boletes are easy to identify: as opposed to "gills" under the cap, they have a spongy material that makes them easy to distinguish from other potentially poisonous mushrooms.

Next summer, our goal is to pick more and dry our own mushrooms: you an dry them in the oven at low heat on the rack. The advantage is that the very tiny worms that are in the mushrooms will crawl out and drop out of the mushroom. It makes it easier to clean the mushrooms as you just have to brush off the caps and clean the stalk.

Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Etiquette & Entertaining & RU cooking
« Reply #31 on: April 22, 2010, 10:10:02 PM »
Upon moving to Russia I soon discovered the seasonality of foods as has been mentioned. In my case it was watermelon that gave me the jolt that foods were enjoyed seasonally and then gone. In just two weeks time the fruit kiosks on the sidewalks of Moscow went from lots of melons for sale to few, and standing in a short line when stumbling across one with a few remaining. When friends had a party to celebrate the end of the melon season it was clear that melons wouldn't be the only seasonal experience. I hadn't seen that since my childhood.

A lot of Russia's fresh vegs/fruits come from the south, places like Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, for example. The types of melons grown in Uzbekistan date back into antiquity. Mother-in-law makes jellies/jams from the rinds.


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[ Guests cannot view attachments ] So tasty, they should be illegal!  :)


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The melons hanging above are sometimes called 'winter melons' as they are grown in fall, wrapped in straw as shown above and then seasoned by hanging in this rope netting over the winter to be eaten in very early spring (see photo #2).

Central Asia is said to be the original home of the melon and the Uzbek region is thought to be home to around 60 unique varieties.

Just after the breakup of the Soviet Union, melons were considered a "currency" of sorts in the Asian republics and along the Russian border as customs officials and highway police were often paid in melons at checkpoints and roadside police checks.

Offline dbneeley

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Re: Etiquette & Entertaining & RU cooking
« Reply #32 on: April 23, 2010, 01:48:26 AM »
Mendy,

An interesting thread--thanks for picking it up again!

I find the majority of foods here to be quite bland, actually. Soups, main dishes, salads--most of these are far less seasoned than I was accustomed to in Texas.

For example, my wife thinks it's horrible that I add vinegar to my salads. The most that she uses is a little lemon juice--which is great as far as it goes, but it rarely goes far enough!

A friend came to Donetsk this week and brought me a jar of medium Pace Chunky Salsa. Irina ignored my suggestion that she try a small bit first, and she put a sizable spoonful in her mouth. At first, it was fine--but of course the spiciness builds a bit and she then thought it was far too spicy for her. A local friend came over later and sampled it and liked it.

Along with the salsa, my American friend also brought me some jalapeno seeds, which I hope to grow in pots. If that is successful, I'll soon have our own homemade salsa. (I'd have asked him to bring the hot version of the salsa, but I knew that would be far beyond what most local folks might find acceptable).

Around here, about the spiciest foods normally found are shashliki, although of course dill pickles are very popular.

Someone mentioned early in the thread that his wife was told that "mayonnaise is the American version of sour cream"--and that she had put mayonnaise on everything for the first months. Actually, many dishes here have large amounts of mayonnaise, far more than is commonly used in the States.

While many soups particularly have whole black peppercorns added, shortly after arriving I bought a small pepper grinder and often add it to various dishes to get a little more spice on the dish.

David


Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Etiquette & Entertaining & RU cooking
« Reply #33 on: April 23, 2010, 11:00:09 AM »
David, I understand completely. We spent two years living in Houston and my mother was born in Texas so one can only imagine how bland the difference must be, especially given the delightful "Tex Mex" feel of many Texas dishes...or even the seasoned Southern influence.

Sometimes I will make Tacos (very mild) in Moscow when we have relatives together and the kids gobble them up while the adults load up on salads and eat a taco out of curiosity and politeness.  :)

Years ago I went to a "Mexican" restaurant in Moscow and was pleasantly surprised to see the employees dressed up in sombrero's, etc, but had to chuckle upon noticing that there wasn't a single "Mexican" entree on the menu. Not even rice and beans.  :chuckle:

Offline froid

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Re: Etiquette & Entertaining & RU cooking
« Reply #34 on: April 23, 2010, 11:26:08 AM »
I am still amazed at how low Mila and Kirill's spice threshold is.  Mila wants to try Indian food again...the first try was too spicy of course...but I haven't felt like wasting another meal like that.  First time I ate Indian food for 2 days with the huge doggy bag I brought home from their meals.  They did like the naan bread though at least. 

I find myself missing spices at home now, and have a few bottles of crushed chili peppers, a few premixed spice jars, and even two homemade ones always available now.  Mila has gotten used to me putting SOMEthing extra on certain things now.

What about steaks?  Mila has gotten used to the "medium" steaks now after a year and admits she likes it a lot better.  Kirill still needs things very well done. 
Look, we're gonna spend half the night driving around the Hills looking for this one party and you're going to say it sucks and we're all gonna leave and then we're gonna go look for this other party. But all the parties and all the bars, they all suck. <-Same goes for forums!

Online Herrie

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Re: Etiquette & Entertaining & RU cooking
« Reply #35 on: April 23, 2010, 11:47:34 AM »
...
What about steaks?  Mila has gotten used to the "medium" steaks now after a year and admits she likes it a lot better.  Kirill still needs things very well done. 
There should be severe punishment for wasting a good steak like that  >:( Anything passed medium rare is a waste of the meat!

Offline dbneeley

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Re: Etiquette & Entertaining & RU cooking
« Reply #36 on: April 23, 2010, 01:00:12 PM »
...
What about steaks?  Mila has gotten used to the "medium" steaks now after a year and admits she likes it a lot better.  Kirill still needs things very well done. 
There should be severe punishment for wasting a good steak like that  >:( Anything passed medium rare is a waste of the meat!

Why stop there--why not opt for steak tartare?   ;D

Seriously, I agree with you that a good piece of meat needs little cooking, and rare to medium rare is fine. When I used to grill steaks while I still ate red meat, I had one side of the grill hot, the other much cooler. I would sear the steak on the hot side, a few moments on each side to seal in the juices, then move it to the cooler side for all the cooking it was going to get.

Unfortunately, red meat is not good for me these days (the fats in red meat increase insulin resistance, unfortunately) so I no longer eat it except perhaps once or twice a year we may be invited to share some shashliki and I make an exception.

I also liked to thoroughly marinate the meat prior to cooking it, and when I could get properly aged beef I was very thankful. With well aged beef, you don't even need a knife to cut your steak.

David

Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Etiquette & Entertaining & RU cooking
« Reply #37 on: April 24, 2010, 10:56:50 AM »
If you get a chance visit www.russiancooking.com

The following was copied from there--Russian cuisine can be described as a very rich concoction of ingredients that was the result of mixing a lot of the flavors of Russia’s multicultural communities.

Initially, Russian food was synonymous to peasant food, as its entire expanse is often under harsh, cold climate and a majority of its population was considered as rural areas early on. However, the abundance of poultry, game, fish and honey, as well as the wide variety of mushrooms and berries in the area have created a distinct set of ingredients for Russian cooking to be appreciated. Barley, millet, rye and wheat are also abundant, perfect for their many different types of breads, cereals, beer and signature vodka.



They recommend 3 cookbooks ofwhich the Mendeleyev family heartily concours:

Food and Cooking of Russia is one good source for a variety of Russian dishes. This Russian cook book has over 200 Russian recipes found within its pages, and can be a great source of new ideas for your other signature meals.

The Best of Russian Cooking is yet another great Russian cook book to find. The book contains 300 very easy to make Russian recipes written by Alexandra Kropotkin.

The Russian Heritage Cookbook, a complete library of 360 traditional Russian dishes. This cook book is quite valuable as it also presents certain recipes made by immigrants from Russia, blending a little bit of home with some American style and flair.

Offline MakwaMS

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Re: Etiquette & Entertaining & RU cooking
« Reply #38 on: June 20, 2010, 12:53:26 PM »
I think one thing was over looked in the etiquette. How do you, without causing offense, politely get up and use the bathroom? Other than that a very informative piece. :)
"Gentlemen you can't fight in here, this is the warroom!" -Dr. Strangelove

Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Etiquette & Entertaining & RU cooking
« Reply #39 on: April 27, 2011, 10:48:36 AM »
I enjoy reading the blog of my friend Rob, a Scottish American man who lives in St Petersburg with his Russian wife. As he's lived there well over a decade, I admire his insights to Russian life.

He is doing a series on Russian Meals, and here is part 1:

16 April 2011L Enjoying Russian Meals... Without Blunders, Part 1
(http://amrusob.blogspot.com/2011/04/enjoying-russian-meals-without-blunders.html)
 

Are there Russians in your community?  They are convivial people who love to share meals.  Whether you are the host, or you have asked them to dinner, it’s good to know what they expect.

Good manners simply means making each other socially comfortable.  Etiquette is mainly common sense, but some is surprising.   Remember, my advice reflects  my experience with mainly older post-Soviet Russians.

Bread and Feet on the Table!

Back in 2000, I noticed my family ate dinner with a piece of bread in the left hand, or leaned the bread against plate and tabletop.  My new son-in-law said,

“That’s OK, Robert.  We don’t put our feet on the table like Americans, just bread!”

On-time isn’t taken very seriously.

(Caution... This time advice is contrary to what I’ve read elsewhere.)

I think that a RST, Russian Standard Time, would be a good way to remember that Russians arrive later than Americans may expect.  This quip is similar to what I heard in the 60s about NST, Negro Standard Time. 

Never be on time for dinner... better 20 minutes later.   If you want to start dinner at 3 PM, you have to invite for 2 PM.

Unconsidered gifts can hurt the mood.

Even if your hosts say don’t... Bring something!  ... some simple flowers* or chocolates, with a bottle of wine or vodka.

* Remember, give an odd number.  An even number is for funerals.  Yellow flowers, except with other colors, are a negative.  They symbolize the end of a relationship.   People carry purchased flowers upside down.

You must wash hands and cover feet!

Make it obvious that you have washed hands before sitting down to eat. 

Never walk in shoes, socks, or bare feet in an apartment.  Your host will offer slippers (or bring your own). 

If your feet are visible when seated, keep them flat on the floor.  This will prevent two gaffes... open crossed legs, and showing the soles of your slippers.

Be your natural low-key self.

Russians expect you to behave like the Americans they have seen in the movies and on TV...loud to boisterous, a little sloppy, and with a smile a mile wide with many teeth showing. 

Practice conversing quietly, spiff up when you arrive, and don’t overwhelm Russians with your teeth.  Russians are self-effacing.  Don’t toot your horn about accomplishments.

Cellphones are a big part of rudeness worldwide.

It’s best to turn off your mobile when you arrive.  Reading and texting as a guest is rude.  You can put your phone on vibrate, and excuse yourself to another room to quietly take a call.  Even so, you are indicating that the call is more important to you than uninterrupted dinner with friends.

A missing prayer, a missing hand...

In my time in Russia, I have never heard grace, except when I’ve said it.  I’m not religious, but I often feel something is missing, and then realize that moment is when grace is offered in many American homes.

What’s missing in a photo of Americans at dinner? 

Left hands!  Russians keep their left hand, when not holding a fork, close to the plate (not encircling it!). 

The continental and the zig-zag...

I  have a mixed Scottish and American heritage.  I hold my fork in, and eat with, my left hand but switch the fork to my right when I don’t need a knife to cut the food.  I place my left hand if idle on my leg. To Russians this seems strange. Someone may ask...

“Who are you grabbing down there?”

Adapting to the needs of our guests...

Many guests leave their cloth napkins untouched throughout the meal.  I use mine as I need it to catch fallen food, sauce, tea!  Since so many people don’t unfold their napkins, we now place a holder of paper ones for those reluctant to soil good linen.

Always be alert in Russia!

Russia cooks have a laissez-faire attitude about pepper and bones.  They expect you, from life-long experience, to spot the pepper bombs and pieces of bone, and lay them aside on a dish.

It’s expected that you take larger bones with your fingers from your soup and gnaw off remaining meat.

Next post... Unusual drinking customs, and what else makes a Russian dinner truly special!

Let’s hear what you think about table manners!  Just click the small comment below.

Are they changing?  Are they different than Russia in your community?   Are they important?

Offline mendeleyev

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Re: Etiquette & Entertaining & RU cooking
« Reply #40 on: April 27, 2011, 10:58:00 AM »
Part 2 of Rob's excellent series:


26 April 2011: Enjoying Russian Food Without Blunders, Part II
(http://amrusob.blogspot.com/2011/04/enjoying-russian-food-without-blunders.html)

Welcome back to the second half of our Without Blunders Etiquette  post!  Just click comments at the end to let us know about table etiquette where you live, or to elaborate or modify what we said.

Savvy drinking tips.

Toasting is part of a festive meal.  You, too, should give a toast, even  in your own language, to the hostess.  Say предлогаю тост за... pred- lo-ga-u toast za...  I propose a toast to...

Before starting food, the host gives the first toast.  The second may be offered for parents... present, absent, or deceased.  At some point the cook and hostess is toasted.  Then for whomever or whatever to keep the vodka flowing!  Keep your glass raised while a toast is said, clink all around (unless a somber toast), and keep eye contact until you shoot all the shot down the hatch with one trip to the mouth!

Bottles from the refrigerator are left on the table until empty.  The host fills the first round, and later the men pour for the ladies. It’s OK to sip if you are a women or foreigner. 

The rare non-imbiber, other drinks, and a caution!

I participate in toasts with just berry juice in my glass. No one will give you a medal for sobriety, but nowadays people will leave you alone about your choice.  It’s just rare not to drink, and shouldn’t be emphasized. 

Often toasts continue with dry wine, while a younger group might welcome champagne or cognac.  Russians are mystified by foreigners who ask for a mixed drink.  Why would you want to pollute good vodka?

A while back we noticed people at the other end of the table were getting a little sloppy as the meal progressed.  Next time we watched closely and saw that our octogenarian Ex-Red Army volunteer Mama was filling up glasses of people, while they were looking away, so they lost all idea how much they had drunk.  Help like this will make you a little drunk... fast!

And some wad eat that want it (Some would eat but have no food).

In St Peterburg, location of the Leningrad Blockade, it’s important to finish every morsel on your plate.  If you are full, say so... Я сыт... Ya seet.  Some say Russian custom is to leave a bit of food on the plate to show that you are satisfied... but I believe to do this would be a subtle strike against you.

The Scottish way to express this respect for food is to recite The Selkirk Grace...

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.
Bread is treated with reverence.  Don’t play with it or throw it.  It’s OK, though, to use it to clean the gravy off your plate.

Scrumptious appetizers including salads...

After the first round of vodka, people start appetizers... such as smoked salmon or caviar on buttered bread... maybe with a few lemon sections.  Deviled eggs, black olives, pickled small cucumbers or tomatoes are always a hit, especially around vodka.

After a few light appetizers, it’s time to turn to the many salad platters.  These salads are considered more important than the entree by most Russian home cooks.  This is the quintessential part of the Russian table.

This particularly tasty part of the meal can last an hour or two.  Then people take a break... sit back, talk, and drink. 

Gift a song!

This is the time when I offer to sing an American song while standing at the head of the table.

Are we finished?

My reaction to the bounteous appetizers and salads is... That’s it!  How could there be more?  It’s a similar feeling to what I had in New Jersey at an Italian-American celebration... Appetizers, spaghetti, and... Surprise!  A full turkey dinner, too! 

The ubiquitous chicken ...

Almost always, the entree is chicken or fish with boiled potatoes.  In some homes, only then, is a knife put next to your plate.  Russians eat much less beef than Americans, and I’ve never seen steak served. 

We use ketchup sometimes during the week, but never place it on a formal table.  It’s OK to cut off pieces of chicken, and then when finished, chew the bones to get the remaining meat.  I’ve seen potatoes served as a separate course.  Baked potatoes are rare.  Boiled potatoes with parsley and dill is usual, often without butter.

Eventually, bottles and dinner plates are cleared.

Something sweet!

Cake is served with spoons.  Dessert is the only part of the meal that is usually store bought.  The Russians I know don’t do much home baking.

Expect hot tea.  Sometimes the hostess has coffee available.  Russians prefer to not be too noticeable, so it’s considered rude to stir your tea as if you are sounding an air raid alarm.

After  a large meal, even after ten years, I have to catch my inclination to lean back, stretch my arms over my head and exclaim... That was great!   

Dance fever...

Often someone will suggest that everyone dance, right in the hallway next to the dining area.

Remember...

It’s typical in America to go to a dinner in the afternoon and still accept another invitation for the evening.  Russian dinners can last into the night, so excusing yourself for another event would be gauche.

Watch your food and drink!

Extra helpings are called дабавки.  If you are asked, moj-na do-bav-ka?  Do you want some more?  Just say, Spa-sea-ba, nee-nada, Thanks, not necessary!

Eat some bread between toasts if nothing else is at hand.  Never try to drink a Russian under the table, or even try to match him drink for drink.  Say хатет!  wha-tit... that’s enough! and smile when you say that!

Dinner is finished after many hours!

Russians live more in the present moment...and hours... while Americans minds often are thinking about what’s next more than what is enjoyable right now.

I left America when I was 57.  All my life I was used to Sunday dinners which lasted maybe 1 1/2 hours.  Here, it’s usual to have a dinner last 5 hours.  A business lunch can take up a good part of the the workday.

Be sure to compliment the cook!   Как кусна! kak koos-na!  How tasty! At the end of the meal, Russians don’t say “Please excuse me” but rather Thanks!  Спасиба!  spa-see-bah!




 

 

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