If you grew up American in a Russian immigrant family, school lunches might’ve been an ordeal for you. The other kids just didn’t understand how half a kotleta slapped on a piece of black bread was your Grandma’s idea of a hamburger. While they indulged in their smorgasbord of American delicacies, you sulked that your lunch never came with a plastic toy, and that your baby bologna sandwich was decidedly less appetizing than the Oscar Mayer/Wonderbread pairing so popular amongst your peers. And try as you did to score some Gushers when shopping with Mama v Shopraitye, the answer was always the same: “A popa ne slipnitsa?”
School lunch isn’t the only source of food-related grief one encounters growing up in a Russian household. When I was a kid, meals were a dreaded affair. Somehow my grandparents never grasped the concept of child-size portions, and were thus unsympathetic to my desperate pleas to escape the dinner table. Not to mention that Russian food isn’t the most “kid-friendly” cuisine. Case in point…
The 5 Grossest Russian Foods of Your Childhood
Whoever decided that encasing shredded meat in a blob of salty jello could be even slightly appetizing was probably high off exhaust fumes. One morsel of this snot-flavored appetizer would send me reeling out of my dining chair in violent fits of nausea. If any one food could make headcheese look tasty by comparison, this would be it.
meat Jell-O, anyone?
2. Pickled Fruit
Want to gross out your American friends? Direct them to the section of your Russian grocery with the open vats of pickled tomatoes/watermelon/grapes/apples/cabbage/anything. When it comes to marinating produce, nothing in the Russian culinary tradition is sacred. At some low point in history, we decided collectively as a people that the question “Should we pickle it?” is entirely rhetorical.
“Can we pickle it?” “Yes we can!!!”
“Hey, let’s take some sliced pig lard, spice it, and serve it on black bread as a vodka-chaser.” Sliced. Pig. Lard. Need I say more?
mmm, spicy pig back.
4. Silyodka Pod Shuboy
Literally translates to “Herring Under a Fur Coat.” I’ll tell you something — there’s nothing vaguely resembling a “shuba” in this dish. This is a “salad” of marinated herring, topped with layers of boiled potatoes, eggs, beets, and copious amounts of — what else? — mayonnaise. One bite of this is a mouthful of Nope.
Masquerading as a cake, are we? Nice try.
Basically carbonated bread juice. Similar to beer, except without all the pleasant side effects. Sometimes they put raisins or other random crap in it to mask what tastes like fermented dirt. If you have kids, spare them the displeasure of drinking this liquid rankness.
Other common Russian ingredients that are generally disagreeable:
Beef tongue, chicken gizzards, tripe (intestines), beef/goose/cod liver, milt.
….but the one treat that redeems it all?