Dazed Digital

Moscow / Русский

The Hungry Russian: Lyudmila Vayner

February 1, 2012

Digging into the history of Russian bread

  • Text by Satellite Voices

Guest feature by Lyudmila Vayner

The first bread-type food was used by humans more than 15,000 years ago, when people began to gather and cultivate cereals. In the Stone Age people ate raw grains, and later they began to rub them between stones and mix it with water. The result was a liquidy grain porridge, which is still eaten in some countries in Asia and Africa. Once people learned how to use fire, they began to fry crushed corn before mixing it with water, and later they started to bake unleavened bread which was thick corn porridge.

In Russia, bread was considered to be the main dish on the table. Moreover, the relationship between the Russian people and bread has always been special. Bread has been compared with the gold, the sun and life itself. Bread was cherished, people composed hymns in its honour, and it was used to greet most important guests. Disrespect for the bread was considered as a moral abuse. Children were taught to appreciate and cherish it as the greatest value.

Bread was baked from different varieties of flour, which was generally passed through sieves with different cell sizes. Generally Russian sour bread was baked from rye flour. Its production was based on the use of special sourdough, and it took several days to prepare it. Dough, mixed with sourdough, was increasing the volume of bread and made it more porous. The recipe of sourdough was passed from generation to generation.

For centuries, the art of baking à la Russe has evolved and undergone changes. Centuries-long experience of traditional corn varieties got the most widespread popularity: custard, borodinsky, kalatch, sitni, sayk. This division of bread varieties stems from the differences in flour, cooking technology and the size of grains in different regions of our country.

Bread is not only the basis of Russian national table, but also a symbol of national prosperity. That is why in Russia bread is related to customs that have survived for many centuries and are still present nowadays. There is, for example, the ancient Russian custom to greet friends, honorable and noble guests, newlyweds and new settlers with a large loaf of black bread and salt. Bread means the full table, but the salt is an ancient symbol of protection.

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