Categories: "Food"


by Don  

I skipped breakfast this morning, so meals are much in my thoughts at the moment. Let's discuss them. First off, the nouns breakfast, lunch, and dinner are завтрак, обед, and ужин respectively. Яичница means fried (or scrambled) eggs, so “I ate fried eggs for breakfast” comes out «На завтрак я ел яичницу». Notice that the meal name goes in the accusative case after the preposition на, which in this case means “for,” and the item to be eaten also appears in the accusative case.

Beginning American students of Russian often write things like «Я ела завтрак» “I ate breakfast.” Technically that's a perfectly grammatical sentence. The trouble is that Russians don't really say it that way very often. Instead they use the verbs to eat breakfast, to eat lunch, and to eat dinner, which are завтракать, обедать, and ужинать respectively. (The perfective of each verb is made by prefixing по- to the imperfective.) Just how big is the difference in usage? I did a non-exhaustive Google search and found the following:

Search phraseHits
ел завтрак346
ела завтрак137
ело завтрак4
ели завтрак342

Pretty amazing, huh? The least common past-tense form of завтракать is more common than all the past-tense forms of «есть завтрак» combined. So if you are ever tempted to say «Я ел(а) завтрак», substitute «Я завтракал(а)» and then award yourself a Scooby snack for stylistic savvy.

Another common error is to say «Я завтракал яичницу». NOOOO! You can't say it that way. Oh, sure, the Russians will understand you, but you will sound like a stupid foreigner. Who needs that? It's good to sound like a mysterious and exotic foreigner, or a stylish and well-traveled foreigner, or a wise and devout foreigner, but try not to sound like a stupid one. To avoid that issue, you need to know that the three meal verbs we mentioned before are complemented by the instrumental case of the thing dined upon. Thus we have:

Итак завтракала кашей и сосиской, обедать буду салатом как обычно. (source) So I breakfasted on oatmeal and sausage, and I will lunch upon salad as usual.
Сегодня мой кот завтракал супом со сметаной и бисквитом... Судя по мордочке - ему нравится. (source) Today my cat breakfasted on soup with sour cream and a biscotto... Judging by his cute little snoot, he likes it.

(Note: каша in the next to the last example is actually a much broader word than “oatmeal,” and бисквит is really much broader than “biscotto,” but we'll save those discussions for another day.)

Just for fun let's include this little gem of an example that I came across the other day in a Russian translation of Stephen King's “Pet Sematary”:

[Кот] позавтракал кишками той мышки. [The cat] had breakfasted upon the entrails of that mouse.

The simplest way to discuss breakfast is to simply use the verb быть “to be”:

На завтрак у меня была каша.I had oatmeal for breakfast.
На обед у меня будут сосиски.I will have hot dogs for lunch.

Notice that in this approach the food item is in the nominative case because it is the subject of the verb, and the verb has to agree with a subject.

In terms of style, phrases like «Мы завтракали» and «На затрак мы ели блины» are perfectly neutral, but if you use the verb завтракать and also mention the food item «Мы завтракали блинами», then you are in a higher stylistic register. It's sort of like the difference between “We ate blintzes for breakfast” and “We breakfasted upon blintzes.”

Finally, at the beginning of a meal one can use the traditional phrase «Приятного аппетита!» “Bon appétit!”


by Olga  

The Russian word for cake is торт. I am the one to prepare all desserts for family gatherings because I love to cook and I always make all my deserts from scratch, making sure to use the freshest ingredients. I find that people generally love my desserts and I feel very lucky and fortunate to have people to cook for.

It was a few days prior to my sister’s birthday and I decided to make her a birthday cake. She absolutely adores chocolate cake шоколадный торт so I decided that would be the best one to make. I was so excited to make this cake for her that I decided to call her and say «Я делаю тебе торт, но я не скажу какой!» “I am making you a cake but I will not tell you what kind!”. My sister became very excited on the phone because she knows that I always make yummy cakes. I worked on the cake for several days and was very excited to present it at the birthday.

Just before leaving for my sister’s birthday party, I carefully placed the beautiful creation in a protective dome and set it flat inside the vehicle. As I was driving, the car in front of me came to a quick stop and I slammed on my brakes. I immediately turned to see if my cake was okay and to my disappointment, I saw that the beautiful design on the side of the cake had been smashed during the impact. The cake was damaged and I was crushed inside even more than the cake. I felt my body temperature rising as I began yelling at the guy in front of me «Ты идиот! Ты испортил мой торт! Смотри, куда ты едешь!» “You idiot! You ruined my cake! Watch where you’re going!”. I wanted everything to be perfect for my sister and now I had to present her with a broken cake. I was so upset that tears just started to run down my face and I wanted to get out of my car and hit ударить the guy who had ruined my sister’s birthday cake. When I arrived, I showed my sister the ruined cake and to my surprise, she began laughing and saying «Не волнуйся! Этот торт удивительный!» “Don’t worry! This cake is wonderful!”. "I truly have a wonderful sister!" «У меня действительно удивительная сестра».


by Olga  

The Russian word for turkey is индюк. Even though Thanksgiving is not a holiday that is celebrated in Russia, Russians still like to eat turkey all throughout the year and many Russian recipes include this tasty meat.

Last Thanksgiving, I was planning on making a large turkey for my family and friends. There were going to be approximately fifteen people at this dinner and I wanted to make sure that the turkey was going to be one of the tastiest dishes that day! I went to the grocery store and picked out the biggest turkey I could find. At home, I was about to start on my recipe when my little sister approached me and asked «Можно я помогу тебе приготовить индюка?» “Can I help you cook the turkey?” She looked so cute when she was asking me, and gladly I allowed her to help me stir the stuffing ingredients together.

I had fun making the stuffing with my sister and was very excited about the big Thanksgiving dinner because the stuffing was turning out delicious! After I assembled the turkey, I set it into the oven to bake. A few hours went by and the turkey still looked raw despite what the instructions indicated. I panicked and said «Что происходит? Я не понимаю, почему индюк еще сырой!» “What's happening? I do not understand why the turkey is still raw!” Suddenly I felt like this was going to be a Thanksgiving disaster, but luckily my mother came and told me that I simply needed to be patient and wait a bit longer. Thankfully my mother was correct and I finished the turkey just before the big dinner.

Don's additional notes: the word индюк can be used to indicate a male turkey, or when cooking the word can be used generically to refer to an entire bird without really specifying the gender of the bird. Индейка is an even more generic word for the animal, but can also mean the meat of the animal, or it can mean a dish prepared from that flesh. Индюшка can mean the same thing as индейка; that is, it means either the animal generically or the meat of the animal. Индюшатина means the meat of the animal or a dish prepared from the meat. Finally, when Russians in Russia discuss the American Thanksgiving celebration, they usually use the stock phrase «готовят индейку» “they cook turkey” to describe it.

Although Olga is correct that Russians in America may eat turkey and that Russian recipes may use turkey, in Russia itself turkey is not a particularly popular meat.


by Olga  

Квас is a very popular Russian drink. It is a mildly fermented alcoholic beverage made from rye bread or berries and yeast. Because this drink has very low alcohol content (1%), it is considered acceptable for children to drink. It is often flavored with fruits фрукты and herbs травы such as strawberries клубника and mint мята. This drink can be bought at the store or made at home. As a child, I loved drinking квас and my mother was a professional at making this drink.

I remember an unfortunate day when I tried to help my mom make квас. I wanted my mom to see that I could be a very good helper so I decided to prove this. I came up to my mom and asked her «Mама, можно я помогу тебе сделать квас?» “Mama, can I help you make квас?” My mother smiled at me and said «Конечно, моя дорогая!» “Of course, my dear!” I tried to show my mom that I was a big girl and could handle carrying one of the large jars of liquid to the table. While my mother left the kitchen, I quickly tried to move the heavy jar and to my surprise, the jar slipped out of my hands and fell to the floor. I was shocked and scared so I ran to my mother in a panic and as I ran, I saw her frantically run towards me! She said, «Что случилось?» “What happened?” In a panicked voice I answered «Я хотела передвинуть банку с квасом, но она упала и разбилась!» “I wanted to move the jar of квас, but it fell and shattered!”. My mom was upset with me for the rest of that day, but from then on I understood that I should not take on tasks that I can not handle.

Конфеты (часть первая)

by Olga  

The Russian word for candy is конфеты. Russians love to serve candy with tea when guests come over, and many candies are wrapped in very beautiful wrappers that make the table cheerful. A common ingredient in Russian candy is chocolate шоколад and waffles вафли, but of course a wide range of other candy ingredients also exists in Russia.

Each year here in the States my little sister enjoys collecting candy on Halloween and tries to break the record each year by collecting more candy than last year. «В этом году я насобираю больше конфет, чем в прошлом году!» “This year I will collect more candy than last year!” I enjoy walking around with her and looking at all the decorated houses. This year after we came home, my sister counted all of her candy and said «Класс! В этом году я насобирала тысячу двести три конфеты!» “Cool! This year I collected one thousand two hundred and three pieces of candy.”

Don's additional notes: the singular of конфеты is конфета “a piece of candy.” One type of candy in Russia is called ириска, which is a caramel that resembles one of the mini Tootsie Rolls one hands out at Halloween. Which reminds me of a joke:

В магазин входит старушка и просит одну ириску. An old woman walks into a store and asks for one caramel.
Продавец: Только одну? Почему так мало? Salesman: Just one? Why so few?
Старушка: Ну, гулять так гулять. Дайте две ириски! Old woman: What the heck, may as well party hardy. Give me two caramels!

(Source of joke: "Russian Stage Two: Welcome Back!" (textbook) © 2001 by American Council of Teachers of Russian)

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