Food in Russia has long depended upon two things: crops that could survive the cold weather and harsh winters, and the people of Russia who needed staples of nourishing foods to sustain them in that weather.
While there are many dishes that are typical or traditional “Russian” dishes, there are also variations on what Russian people may describe as their traditional foods. Dependent upon where in Russia a person is from, the description of ‘typical’ Russian food might change. Just as an American from the South of the United States might provide an answer different from that of an American from New England as to what typical “American” food is, so you would find various answers from Russian people.
However, the components of these ‘famous’ foods are largely the same. Breads, potatoes, meats (mostly pork and beef) along with eggs and butter are typical ingredients in many familiar Russian meals. There are three main meals per day, just as in most places around the world.
Breakfast (or, Zavtrak) is served in the morning, and can consist of eggs, bread any typically “kasha” which is the equivalent of porridge or oatmeal. Kasha, as a breakfast food, has long been a Russian staple in the morning for two reasons. First, kasha is easy to fix, and cooks in a relatively short amount of time. For the working class, in cold climates, kasha also provided many nutrients and vitamins.
Next, during lunch (or obed), Russians typically consume the most food during this meal. During this mid-day meal, Russians can consume a five course meal and it is considered their main meal. Typically, lunch begins with a salad, then soup, and then the rest of the main courses. It isn’t until dinner that they eat again and usually this is the family meal, where the family gathers to share the events of the day. This meal is called Uzhin.
Some of the dishes traditionally served at Russian meals include the following:
Borshch – Borshch is a type of soup that is served and is a beet-based soup. Packed with vegetables and meat, this soup can be served as part of ‘obed’ prior to the main course. This is a traditional Russian soup and can usually be found at most meals.
Pirozhki – These are small pastries can be filled with potatoes, vegetables, fruit or cheese.
Blini – These rolled items are like small pancakes, and can be filled with fruit, jams, or even chocolate. Blini are considered an important part of many celebratory occasions, and are considered to be one of the traditional dishes of Russia.
Plemini – these are rolled out filled doughs, much like dumplings. Made from a thin dough, various meats (pork, veal, etc) are wrapped in the dough and various spices and vegetables can be added. The plemini is very similar to the consistency of a Chinese potsticker.
Russian vodka is one of the most popular items from Russia. Vodka, in Russian, means “little water” and like the name suggests, vodka looks like water. Many in Russia drink vodka daily and it is considered a drink that is acceptable with most meals. People partake of vodka straight from the freezer, and sometimes it is accompanied by a pickle or an onion. Unlike the stereotypical idea that Russians drink the most vodka, consumption of vodka is not the higher in Russia than in other countries. To the surprise of most, vodka may not have originated in Russia. Some claim that vodka was present in the country of Poland since the 8th century. Others claim that vodka originated in Italy in the 15 century and was brought to Russia from there.