What is the most Slavic at all

The kingdom of the pickled cucumbers

# 19 - Peter Peters tongue makes him a true connoisseur of the art of cooking and a master of the polished word. For KARENINA, the gastrosoph tastes like Russian cuisine.

The more Slavic, the more cucumber. There is more than a grain of mustard truth in this grammatically crooked statement.

Let's just take the German-speaking area. In Vienna, the majority of which are said to have a Bohemian migration background from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, pickles or pickles are fished from large glasses at every sausage stand. Tourists are led to the cucumber leo on the Naschmarkt, where the goods for sale float in milky brine in wooden tubs, as in a Russian village market. Not only in the fine ham roll, but also in the most vulgar extra sausage roll at the station kiosk, there is of course a slice of sour cucumber. This is exactly what you have to fight for when you have a sandwich at a West German snack bar: the oh-so-healthy lettuce leaf has replaced the spicy cucumber.

In Germany, too, most of the pickled cucumbers come from where the country is the most Slavic, where the place-name signs are written in two languages: Sorbian and German. The Wendish culture of the Spreewald, where even wooden cucumber barrels are converted into cute gazebos, is completely under the spell of the cucumber.

And with the popular Silesian mustard cucumbers, we are very close to the Polish cucumber heaven. After all, we owe our word “cucumber” to the old Polish ogurek. Old-fashioned Austriazism Umurken on the other hand, comes from Czech and has retained the Slavic initial vowel, which is also used in the Russian word ogurez begins.

If, on the other hand, you travel to the Romanic countries, marinated cucumbers are a rarity or an expensive delicacy such as French gherkins. Cetrioli and cetriolini is clearly exotic Italian for advanced learners.

Endless cucumber shelves

No wonder that people speak of a “pickled cucumber meridian” that roughly corresponds to the Berlin-Vienna line. East of it begins the Slavic empire of pickled cucumbers and its epicenter is Russia.

This leading culinary role manifests itself suddenly when you wander through the endless cucumber shelves of Russian supermarkets. It expresses itself more convincingly in the differentiated collective product knowledge. Just as other peoples differentiate between apple varieties or vineyards, so many Russians are familiar with different types of cucumber and growing areas.

The rediscovery of old varieties is a particular issue. Slow Food Russia lists the short, bulky and slightly prickly aksel cucumbers that have been grown in kitchen gardens in what is now the Republic of Mordovia since the 18th century and that used to supply the markets of Nizhny Novgorod.

Another variety is the light green egg-shaped Vyaznikovsky cucumber from the Vladimir district, which was also previously planted in Moscow gardens. Most famous are those ogurzy of Suzdal. A cucumber festival has been celebrated in “Russian Rothenburg” every July since 2001, at which traditional pickled cucumbers face competition from more fashionable products such as cucumber jam.

In general, it is the wealth of recipes that underlines the central role of piston fruit for the Russian (and Ukrainian) palate. Even more exciting than “national dishes” like the pickled cucumber soup Soljankawho have favourited Cucumber Cold Peel Okroshka or the stew served with pickled cucumber Rassolnik I find the inventiveness and the knowledge of self-pickled things. Not only dill and mustard seeds give pickles a taste, but also the aromas of self-collected cherry, oak, blackberry and currant leaves.

Medieval Asian heritage

Where does this Russian cucumber cosmos come from? First of all, there are geographical neighborhoods by taste and historical reasons. The original wild form of the green pumpkin plant is likely to be found in India. The plant spread westward along the caravan routes into the Mesopotamian area and as far as Byzantium. From there, the first cucumbers are said to have reached Russia, according to the philologists who use the Russian word ogurez to be traced back to a Greek term.

The role of Central Asia is likely to have been more decisive, where Mongolian nomads came up with the idea of ​​using lactic acid fermentation to preserve salted cucumbers. Since the Russian principalities were under the influence of the Mongolian Golden Horde until the early 16th century, the cucumber fixation of Russian cuisine can be seen as a lasting legacy of medieval Asian character. A Russian pickle definitely has more to do with Korean kimchi than a British cucumber sandwich.

There are also climatic reasons. Cucumbers have a relatively short ripening period and can be harvested as early as mid-August, so they suit the country's cold climate, although they are sensitive to the cold. Thus, the warty Muromsky cucumber, which has been cultivated in the Vladimir region since the 13th century, ripens in 32 to 42 days.

Cucumbers can also be grown relatively easily in small dacha gardens, which was important during the agricultural collectivization of the Soviet Union. And in view of the many rivers, the high demand for water is easy to meet despite the continental climate that is rather low in precipitation.

Cucumbers: high yield and cheap

And of course there are socio-cultural reasons for the Russian cucumber euphoria. The plants are high-yielding and therefore cheap. And last but not least, pickled cucumbers are a proven remedy for vodka hangovers, which is why they are also the most important preventative component of the sakuski, the Russian antipasti.

Sausage eaters are better lovers, was a not exactly subtle advertising slogan from a Swiss meat manufacturer. Does that also apply to cucumber eaters? The Russian compliment molodez ogurez (Cucumber fellow!) Might suggest it. Maybe "You're a great guy" is simply about the rhyme. Either way, proof of how positively - in contrast to our limp cucumber troops - the cucumber has connotations in Russia.