How to Eat (and Drink) Like a Russian

It’s one thing to know some delicious Russian dishes and it’s a whole different story to understand how Russians eat. The most common idea is probably that Russians eat potatoes for all three meals and follow it up with a shot of vodka. I am not kidding, people asked me whether in Russia we have vodka for breakfast. So let’s end this confusion once and for all. If you want to eat like a Russian…

russian food
Russian food includes great variety of soups. It’s common to eat a cold soup like okroshka in hot summer months.

Eat a Lot of Soup (Even in Summer)

If you are Russian you take soup seriously. You don’t mess around by using pre-made stock. Actually, if you are in Russia there’s no such thing as store-bought stock, the only option is to prepare it yourself.

A bowl of soup will warm you up during long winter days or cool you down during summer heat. How so? Because Russians have no shortage of soup varieties: hot for winter, cold for summer. While the rest of the world might cool down with a bottle of Coca-Cola, Russians are so hardcore, they have soup instead!

traditional russian food potato
Simple Russian food – boiled potatoes served with pickled mushrooms

Eat Potatoes But Not Too Much

If you are Russian you grow potatoes, you know how to prepare potatoes in 25 different ways and you eat a lot of potatoes, but (!) you definitely don’t eat them on a daily basis.  You are constantly told by foreigners that you do and your every attempt at busting this myth is met with a more persistent “but you really do!” In the end you find it easier to simply nod and agree because let’s face it: potatoes are awesome.

Russian solyanka soup served with dill and bread

Have a Slice of Bread with Every Meal

If you are Russian bread will make a great addition to any meal. ANY. You might have a slice of bread with soup or salad which totally makes sense. But not everything you do should make sense, that’s why you will also have a slice of bread with pasta or dumplings. True story. If somebody tries to tell you that bread doesn’t work well with your meal reply with “Bread is the head of everything”.

Oh and, by the way, what’s up with cutting off the crust in USA? If you are Russian you fight for the first and last slice of loaf because crust is the best!

Traditional Russian pelmeni with a side of mayo – my favorite meal in the entire world!

Add Mayo to Everything

If you are Russian you eat approximately 5 kg (11 lbs.) of mayo per year (for comparison consumption of mayo in European countries varies between 1 to 2.5 kg per year). And if you are from Ural region of Russia, like myself, the number goes up to terrifying 8 kg per year.

You use mayo to dress majority of salads, spread it on sandwiches, add a dollop to most of soups and – my favorite – have Russian pelmeni with mayo. Hell, you can even add it to pastry dough as fat. I swear I have seen a blueberry pie with mayo on the ingredients list.


Grow Your Own Fruits and Vegetables

If you are Russian you spend most of your summer at dacha – a country house in suburbs used for cultivating fruits and vegetables. But make no mistake, dacha doesn’t mean relaxing, lying in hammock with a book by Tolstoy or playing with kids on the grass far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Dacha is meant for hard physical labor (child labor is encouraged: “fresh air is so good for kids!”). If you are Russian you don’t just grow some basil and thyme for entertainment. You grow every fruit and vegetable known to human kind and in amounts that can be only explained by your desire to feed an army of hungry soldiers. 1 000 square meters (10 764 sq. ft) of land for potatoes? Sounds reasonable. Because you are not a crazy person to pay 50 rubles ($1) for a kilo of potato in winter when you can simply spend your whole summer working 8 hours per day at dacha and grow your own!


Make Your Own Jams and Pickles

If you are Russian you prepare for long cold winters long beforehand. When dacha season is finally over in October you end up with 20 buckets of cucumbers, 15 buckets of tomatoes, 10 buckets of strawberries and what not. Now is the time to roll up your sleeves and make some pickles, jams and jellies or… watch your grandma do it. Winter doesn’t seem so bad when you are covered with blanket, drinking hot tea and eating jam straight out of a jar.

russian tea

Drink Tea at Every Occasion

If you are Russian any reason is a good reason to drink tea. As a rule of thumb you drink tea in the morning and then after every meal throughout the day. But you also might drink tea in between meals when you are hungry, thirsty, cold or simply bored. You probably drink as little as 3 cups a day but it may go up to 5-6 and beyond.

Drink Vodka in Shots and Never Say “Na Zdorovie!”

If you are Russian you drink vodka. There, I said it! But to answer the most frequent questions… No, you don’t drink vodka first thing in the morning. No, you don’t drink vodka if you are 10 years old. And no, you don’t drink vodka to warm up in winter (soup and tea will do just fine).

Now when you do drink vodka, say, on special occasions, you do shots and you never – repeat after me – NEVER say “na zdorovie!” as “cheers!” Because if you do, then you are not Russian, my friend! You might be Polish, but you are definitely 100% not Russian.

If you are Russian you are not so lazy as to come up with one word to say every time you drink. Instead, whenever you raise you glass you say an elaborate toast – a speech that usually takes shape of a story followed by a meaningful conclusion. Nobody said drinking in Russia is easy.

Oh and last, but not least, if you are Russian you use pickled cucumbers as food chasers after vodka shots. And if you are really bad-ass you just sniff on a slice of rye bread.

Do you know any other rules of eating and drinking in Russia? Have you tried using one of these rules yourself? I love talking to my readers! Comment below and let me know what you think!

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Yulia is a Russian food and travel blogger who found home first in Sri Lanka for 3 years, then in Brazil for a year and is currently based in Austin, Texas. She is the kind of person who starts a research of the new country by googling “what to eat in…” instead of “what to visit in…” Yulia is a self-proclaimed “food nerd” who will spend hours reading on the origins of pecan pie before trying it and who doesn’t consider waiting in line of 50 people to get a cronut a waste of time. She finds it hard to keep her delicious findings to herself and that is the reason why this blog exists.

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Ксения says:

    Нуууу я почти все поняла Мне вспомнилась общага особенно в частях про чай , заготовки и водку

    1. А мне в связи с общагой всегда вспоминается Наташина фотография, где она консервы на полу открывает))))

  2. Ksenia says:

    Дааа) в той утренней фотосессии так же принимали участие пельмени в кастрюле)

    1. Даааааааааа! Я помню! 😀

  3. Kiki says:

    Oh yes!
    Soup, potatoes, dacha, mayo and tea…truly Russian!!!
    I would also add that the amount of what we consider calling a shot in Russia is much smaller than what is being served as a shot in local bars;)) I believe it is 50ml? Might be wrong, but it is definitely a shorty;))

    1. Kiki, your comment made me think of another oddity! In Russia we measure vodka, which is liquid, in grams for some reason. We wouldn’t ask for 50 ml of vodka, we would ask for 50 g of vodka at a bar. At the same time any other alcoholic beverage is measured in ml. I wonder what is the reason behind it! По сто грамм?)))

  4. Класс Юль! У меня ностальгия бешеная после прочтения этого поста! Слюни потекли!!!

    1. Я по окрошке скучаю и по майонезу Провансаль! Надо из следующей поездки в Россию привезти с собой)))

  5. Joleen says:

    Great read! I want to eat Russian some time! I love soup all the time and fresh fruit and rye bread and potatoes and tea and vodka!

    1. Thank you, Joleen! Maybe we can have a Russian-inspired meet-up for Austinot writers next time? That would be fun!

  6. mk says:

    Lets not forget the funny little easter breads. Mistook one for a cupcake once 😛

    1. I love those! With Easter coming on Sunday, I feel pity I am not going to have one of those this year!

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