Categories: "Food"


by Don  

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.


by Don  

With a bit of practice the beginning Russian student begins to recognize when a Russian word may have been borrowed from another language. For instance, кв- often corresponds to qu- in English; thus кварц means quartz. Or English th- sometimes corresponds to Russian т-; thus thesis becomes тезис. So when a student spots the word геркулес, he may recognize that г- corresponds to h- and immediately assume that it refers to Hercules, the Greek god. Imagine his shock, then, upon learning that the most common usage of the word is for oatmeal, the breakfast cereal. That's right: геркулес means limp, sticky oat flakes:

Готовые завтраки не очень питательны. Я считаю, что каждое утро надо есть геркулес. Он уменьшает холестерин в крови и предотвращает запоры. Pre-prepared breakfast dishes are not very nutritious. I think that one should eat oatmeal every day. It decreases cholesterol in the blood and prevents constipation.

Геркулес was originally a Soviet brand name for oatmeal, though nowadays it is used of oatmeal generically. Why would oatmeal be connected with the image of the Greek who was famed for his strength? There is a cultural reason, actually:

Издавна к овсу в России сложилось отношение, как к пище, дающей много силы, так как он служил основным кормом для лошадей, которые были главной тяговой силой во всех сферах. (source) In Russia oats have long been considered to be a food that gives one a lot of strength since it was the main food of horses, which were the primary source of strength for hauling and transportation in all spheres of life.

In the US we generally prepare oatmeal in boiling water with a bit of salt added. Once it is in the bowl in front of us, we often add a bit of milk or sugar or a handful or raisins. In Russia the oats are often boiled up in water or milk with a simply astonishing quantity of sugar mixed in. And then comes the best part... the Russians then slice off an enormous chunk of butter and drop it on top of the oatmeal. The residual heat melts the better into a glorious golden pool that stretches across the entire bowl, and every single spoonful delivers the marvelous buttery taste. You can literally feel your carotid artery clogging with every heavenly spoonful.

(BTW, the idea that butter clogs your arteries is of course a complete falsehood propagated by the CIA to rob us of the joy in our lives. All educated people know that butter lubricates the veins and arteries and makes the blood flow more smoothly...)

Finally we should mention that although you will find the Greek hero's name occasionally spelled Геркулес in Russian (from the Latin version), but you also find Геракл (from the Greek version). Since Hercules is one of the most commonly depicted Greek personages, below you will see one of the most famous Hercules statues in Russia. It is on the grounds of the Summer Palace, which was built mostly by the empresses Elizabeth the first and Catherine the second. The palace is located a short distance from St. Petersburg in a town called Pushkin, formerly Царское село. The statue is a copy of the famous Farnese Hercules. Wow. Those Russian empresses liked their men beefy. I guess Hercules must have eaten a lot of геркулес...


by Tatiana  

I’m sure we have all had our moments, drinking at a party, when all of the people somehow keep managing to have a great time, but you feel so sick that you simply must leave… Hopefully, it happens at the end of the night after someone safely drops you off at home. Unfortunately, not all of us are always that lucky…

The magical feeling preceding the gross outcome, nausea, is called тошнота in Russian. Consequently, the verb for being nauseous is тошнить. Unlike in English, when you say, “I’m sick” or “I’m nauseous”, Russians say that something is being done to them.

Где здесь туалет? Мне очень надо... меня страшно тошнит! Where is the restroom here? I really need to go… I’m feeling very nauseous!
Когда моя жена была беременна, её тошнило каждое утро. When my wife was pregnant, she felt nauseous every morning.
Валю с утра тошнит: он перепил вчера. Valya feels sick in the morning: he drank too much yesterday.
— Ты себя хорошо чувствуешь? Ты очень бледная.
— Я всегда так волнуюсь перед экзаменом, меня аж тошнит.
“Are you feeling well? You are very pale.”
“I am always so nervous before exams that I feel sick.”

The adverb тошно is also used to describe a feeling of nausea.

Мне тошно, наверное я чем-то отравилась. I’m feeling sick; I bet I got food poisoning.

Just like in English, the verb тошнить can be used figuratively.

— Лена, а где же Костя? Вы обычно всюду вместе ходите.
— Даже и не спрашивай, он мне так надоел - меня от него уже тошнит!
“Lena, where is Kostya? You are usually always together.”
“Don’t even ask! I’ve had enough of him; he makes me sick!”
— Ну как тебе занятия в новой школе?
— Да меня уже тошнит от всех этих книжек и тетрадок! Хочу на каникулы!
“How do you like your classed in your new school?”
“I’m sick of all the textbooks and notebooks already! I want to be on vacation already!”

I remember the first time I went to San Diego. My friend and I drove all day and after checking into our hotel, we realized we were hungry. However, everything was closed except for a little convenient store down the street. We figured we could grab something small to eat before doing anything else. That was a rookie mistake: I can barely remember what happened to me for the next couple of days. I don’t remember the famous San Diego zoo because we never made it there. However, what I remember perfectly is the fastest way to get from the bed the bathroom and back crawling. It was the most awful food poisoning I have ever experienced. I wouldn’t wish that to my worst enemy.


by Don  

The Russians have a special word for boiled water which is кипяток. It is derived from the verb кипятить “to boil,” so etymologically кипяток means “boiled stuff.” Nowadays we Americans are convinced of the healthful benefits of water. We drink it from from the tap, from special spigots on refrigerators, from dopey coin-machines that charge us extra money for water delivered through the same distribution system as the water that flows into our kitchens and bathrooms, and from environmentally-assinine plastic bottles with designer names. Americans are so water-focused that we are stunned to learn that many Russians believe that drinking tap-water is unhealthy.

That's right: unhealthy. Truth to tell, city-wide distribution of clean water is a recent phenomenon in the history of man, and one that is not even consistent in the United States. Water quality in Russia still varies widely. As recently as 1997 one study reported a 95% incidence of giardiasis (nasty diarrheal disease) among travelers to St. Petersburg.¹ So when a Russian tells you that it's not a good idea to drink tap water, they are not passing on some quaint superstition, but rather a serious concern. For that reason, seasoned travelers to Russia often drink and brush their teeth in кипяток. Well... that's not quite right. Кипяток is water that is still boiling hot. Once it has cooled off, it is no longer кипяток. So experienced travelers drink and brush their teeth with water that was once кипяток. The noun has a fleeting vowel, so it declines like this:


Sample sentences:

Я попросил горничную, чтобы она приносила мне каждый день кувшин кипятка. I asked the maid to bring me a pitcher of boiling water every day.
Он случайно ошпарил руку кипятком. He accidentally scalded his hand with boiling water.
На дне Тихого океана обнаружены сверхгорячие источники с температурой воды от 250 до 400 градусов Цельсия, и в этом кипятке живут бактерии, гигантские черви, различные моллюски и даже некоторые виды крабов. (adapted from this source) On the bottom of the Pacific Ocean superhot springs have been discovered with water temperatures from 240 to 400°C. The boiling water is inhabited by bacteria, giant worms, various mollusks, and even some types of crabs.
Нарезанные фрукты сложить в миску, облить их десятью стаканами кипятка. (adapted from this source) Place the sliced fruit in a bowl and cover it with 10 cups of boiling water.

¹ Ortega YR, Adam RD. Giardia: overview and update. Clin Infect Dis. 1997 Sep;25(3):545-9.

Яблоко (часть вторая)

by Don  

The Russian word for apple is яблоко. Note that it has an unexpected nominative/accusative plural:


Sample sentences:

— Ты любишь яблоки?
— Да, я их обожаю.
“Do you like apples?”
“Yes, I adore them.”
Купи два кило яблок. Buy two kilos of apples.
На десерт мама приготовила пирожки с яблоками. Mom made apple pirozhki for dessert.
— Мой дядя говорит, что Ева соблазнила Адама не яблоком, а гранатом. Это правда?
— Понятия не имею
“My uncle says that Eve tempted Adam with a pomegranate, not an apple. Is that right?”
“I have no idea.”
Мой друг вчера принёс яблоки с дачи. Я откусил одно. Оно было таким сладким, но пока я его жевал, из яблока высунулась жёлтая головка. В яблоке был червяк! Тьфу, какая гадость! Yesterday my friend brought some apples from his dacha. I bit into one. It was so sweet, but as I was chewing, a little yellow head popped out of the apple. The apple had a worm! Gross.

deder Apfel
frla pomme
psمڼه or سيو

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