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Some foods you just can't do without. In the States it's almost inconceivable not to have turkey and mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, or hamburgers at a picnic, or apple pie for dessert. If those foods aren't part of your life, by cracky, then you just aren't a real American and your status as a patriot is open to question. Among those foods that are inherently Russian, among those foods without which you cannot even conceive of a Russian upbringing and without which you cannot have a Russian soul is… сметана sour cream. The noun is a perfectly regular second declension noun:
American sour cream is not like Russian sour cream. American sour cream is adulterated with thickening agents to make it firm. If you remove the sour cream from its container, it actually retains the shape of the container… for a while at least.
Russian sour cream flows gently and smoothly, creamy and delicious, just like universal love flowing from the cosmic mind. Fresh and almost without preservatives, you eat Russian sour cream right away, not because you are afraid it will go bad, but because it is so wonderful you would never not eat it all. And like universal love, the Russians pour it over over everything: soups, pancakes, meat dishes, fruits, vegetables… Сметана can even be a dish unto itself. The cafeteria at Moscow State University used to sell glasses full of sour cream for direct consumption, some with sugar added, some without, and people just bought a glassful and ate it with a spoon.
|Дочка, купи, пожалуйста, сметану на ужин.||Daughter, please buy sour cream for dinner.|
|Русские любят заправлять борщ сметаной.||Russians like to garnish their borscht with sour cream.|
|Самая свежая сметана бывает на рынке.||The freshest sour cream is usually at the farmers' market.|
And of course, let's not forget the medicinal powers of sour cream, especially in treating sunburn:
|Помните о том, что главное на солнце – это умеренное пребывание, не лежите на пляже с утра до вечера. Но если вы обгорели, смажьте обожжённые места сметаной. (adapted from this source)||Remember that the important thing is to spend only a reasonable amount of time in the sun. Don't lie on the beach from morning to evening. But if you do get a sunburn, daub the burned spots with sour cream.|