Magazine article Russian Life

Mushroom Soup - a Recipe

Magazine article Russian Life

Mushroom Soup - a Recipe

Article excerpt

'Forest meat' is not a bad name for mushrooms, in fact it's very common in Russia. Judge for yourself - mushrooms contain twice as much protein as meat, and three times as much as fish. You can dry them, salt them, pickle them, fry them and of course boil them.

In Russia, mushrooms have always been revered. Along with furs and red caviar, they have made up a substantial share of national exports since the 15th century.

And what would peasants do without them? Russia's nutrition system was created under the powerful influence of religion. About 200 days a year were fast days, when people were not allowed to eat certain foods, including meat. And though the rich could afford to vary their meals and buy fish and imported fruit, peasants would go to the forest to pick mushrooms and berries.

Incidentally, under serfdom, some taxes to the landowner could be paid with these products. This practice, oddly enough, has made a reappearance of a kind today. In one Karelian village, a representative of an investment fund started offering shares in his company in exchange for crates of white mushrooms. Considering the poor reputation of investment funds in Russia, the deal was quite profitable for this businessman - wild forest mushrooms are very expensive nowadays.

No flashy restaurant in Moscow can fail to include mushrooms among its most exquisite dishes. However, today's fungal delights have still to reach the heights of the old tsarist delicacies. There was a time when Catherine the Great's chefs cooked mushroom 'rabbit,' 'pheasant,' and 'sturgeon' that, according to the memoirs of contemporaries, tasted just like the real thing. …

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