If You Are Hungry…

Did you know…

… what foods were eaten in medieval Russia?

2016-06-29-14-30-40It is simple enough to deduce what foods were not part of the diet, since some staples of modern Russian cuisine are New World foods: potatoes, tomatoes, corn, green peppers.

And some standard foodstuffs are as old as the land (or almost): rye, wheat, millet, barley, oats. These grains were used predominantly to prepare sourdough bread. Buckwheat was introduced only in the XV century, but as we know, it has become one of the most common foods in Russian cuisine.

Grains were also used to prepare a variety of porridges (“kasha” refers to a porridge-like dish, not to buckwheat only). These porridges could be sweet or savory, a meal in themselves or a side dish.

Domestically produced meat included beef, pork and mutton, in order of importance. Chickens (and eggs), geese, ducks, and even crrachkov-girl-with-berriesanes (!) made up domestic fowl. Game and venison comprised just about every kind of available animal, from hares and squirrels, to deer and wild boar.

Only bear meat was off limits: some scholars suggest that is was because of an ancient bear-cult, but there is no strong evidence to support their theory.

Horse meat was not eaten, except in times of famine. In fact, the eating of horse meat was often used, in the Chronicles, to illustrate the severity of the famine, or the cruelty of a siege.

From cow milk, Russians obtained butter, cheese (both hard and soft, the latter of the cottage cheese kind, probably), and probably some kind of buttermilk. A dish still known today, and possible only because of the type of oven used by the Russians, is “baked milk” — milk placed in a warm oven and left all day until it acquires a brown crust. I have no idea how that tastes: I have never had a Russian oven!