*Cabbage and Caviar: A History of Food in Russia*
That is the title of a new and excellent book by Alison K. Smith. I have watched other people eat this food for eighteen years, and now I am beginning to understand:
The real shift in the world of Soviet salads, however, came in the Brezhnev era of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Then, named prepared salads started to appear, some initially associated with particular places but which soon spread out into the wider culinary world. The salads often features mayonnaise — not a new ingredient, but one increasingly produced not at home but industrially for sale in shops. Two of the most famous are layered salads that also featured another not new but newly prominent product: canned fish. ..In salad ‘Mimosa’, canned fish is layered with chopped boiled potatoes, hard-boiled eggs separated into whites and yolks, cooked carrots and mayonnaise. Finely chopped hard-boiled yolks make up the top layer, giving the salad its name: the yolks mimic mimosa flowers. Another salad, seld pod shuboi — literally herring under a fur coat — is similar, but uses herring instead of other canned fish and adds a layer of grated cooked beetroot under the topping of mayonnaise and chopped egg yolk. The beetroot bleeds into the mayonnaise, making the salad one of the most vibrantly colored parts of the Russian table.
In the Soviet era, the kotlet came to take precedent over whole roast pieces of meat. It was economical and could be made so as to stretch out a small portion of meat with breadcrumbs or other starch, and it made tougher cuts more palatable. It was also a challenge.
The preference for mushrooms was extensive, and in a way that struck some as particularly Slavic.
One thing that Russians did not have until relatively recently was cheese — at least, not cheese in the sense of aged or ripened cheese.
I can’t quite utter “recommended,” but the book is really good!