Now, LiveJournal Magazine is here to find out what delicacies Stalin served to his guests and how to make chocolate jelly just like Tolstoy’s wife.
Despite his otherwise European tastes, Russian emperor Peter the Great always remained a great lover of Russian cuisine. According to one contemporary, engineer Andrey Nartov, his daily meals often included calf’s foot jelly, pickles, sour cabbage soup, and meat with cucumbers or pickled lemons. Ater starting his meal with a shot of anise vodka, he then washed down feasts with a Russian drink of kvass. In fact, the Emperor even preferred having his state dinners for foreign guests, where European food was served, at Prince Menshikov’s palace.
Poet Alexander Pushkin loved simple country foods: cabbage or vegetable soup with boiled eggs, grains, and cutlets served with sorrel and spinach. According to his contemporaries’ memoirs however, he especially liked baked potatoes cooked in the traditional fashion: unpeeled, rolled in coarse salt, and buried deep in the cinders of the oven. For pudding meanwhile, the great writer liked nothing better than white gooseberry jam.
Tolstoy’s Sweet Tooth
It is widely known that Leo Tolstoy did not eat meat, and for breakfast he often enjoyed oatmeal, sour milk, and eggs. The famous author however, was not concerned with eating too much, and could have as many as three bottles of yoghurt, several cups of coffee, pureed rice and several pies all in one day. His wife, Sofia, was very anxious about her husband’s digestive health. “At dinner today,” she wrote in her diary, “I watched him eat with horror: he started with salted mushrooms… then he had four large buckwheat toasts with soup, sour kvass, and rye bread. And such great amounts of everything, too.”
Leo Tolstoy also adored sweets, and ensured that there were always nuts, dates and dried fruits in the house as well as jams made in his own estate. His most famous jam was a rich mixture of fruits and berries: melons, cherries, apples, peaches, plums, gooseberries, and apricots.
His wife Sofia also kept a recipe book where she eventually ended up collecting over 160 recipes. One staunch favorite was for chocolate jelly: made with a ‘plank’ of chocolate (two modern-day bars), two cups of potato flour, one cup of sugar and two bottles of milk (back in the day, a bottle of milk was approximately 0.75 liters in size). The cook needed to grate the chocolate before mixing it with the starch, sugar and some milk. The rest of the milk was then boiled and added to the mixture, before being stirred until the jelly turned thick.
Stalin was funny about his dinners: they began very late at night and could stretch on for hours. A lot of food was served but the state leader himself ate little- preferring to treat his guests instead. The usual dishes were baked ham, mutton or fowl rolls, sturgeon, pies, fish, and, of course, real Georgian delicacies such as kebabs, lobio, and phali.
Anastas Mikoyan remembered that Stalin’s favourite food was fish - frozen white salmon, or boiled Danubian herring. “He loved fowl: guinea fowls, ducks, chickens,” said Mikoyan. “He loved thin lamb ribs on a skewer. They were delicious: very thin ribs, little meat, very dry. Everyone always liked them. And boiled quails- they were the best.”
General Sergei Shtemenko, Chief of the Armed Forces’ General Staff and frequent guest at Stalin’s house, wrote in his book The General Staff During the War that ‘at Stalin’s dinners, even if they [the dinners] were very big, there were never any waiters. They would bring everything in and leave in silence. Plates and cutlery, bread, cognac, vodka, dry wines, spices, vegetables and mushrooms were set out in advance. Generally, there were no meats, hams or other appetizers. He hated preserves.”
Hitler’s Nightly Kitchen Raids
Thanks to a well-documented spleen disorder, Adolf Hitler kept to a rigorous diet under the charge of his personal chef. Hitler’s former maid however, Elisabeth Kalhammer, told the journalists that each night when the house staff were asleep, Hitler would quietly make his way into the kitchen and secretly eat cookies and cream cakes. In fact, according to Kalhammer, the cooks would even make ‘A Fuhrer Cake’ before going to bed each evening, with apples, nuts, and raisins.
Lenin’s Healthy Exile
In Lenin’s childhood, the family ate on strict schedule: breakfast was at eight on regular days and at noon on holidays, while lunch was served at two or four. Dinner was at eight or nine every day, and regularly included soups: often vegetable, grain and milk-based, or with cabbage, meat soup or fish. Meat was generally served boiled; the fish was also boiled or smoked. They also often ate dairy and eggs in a variety of forms, whether scrambled, boiled, or in omlettes. On the whole, their eating habits were quite simple: on weekdays the family ate only rye bread for lunch, while white bread was served only for tea or dinner.
This diet was good for the family’s children, but as soon as the former Soviet leader began to study at university in Kazan and left familiar home cooking behind, he became ill with gastritis - a condition from which he suffered for the rest of his life. According to celebrated gastronomical researcher William Pokhlyobkin, “at the end of 1895, when Lenin was arrested for the first time, his gastritis became more severe - however, the regular prison diet of soup and grains eventually had a stabilizing effect. Lenin’s diet was also good in exile: in Krasnoyarsk, he stayed at a private apartment with full board and a real Siberian menu of mushroom soup, veal, boiled fish, pies, dumplings and mutton. Lenin even wrote to his family: ‘I am doing fine and am very happy with the food. I have quite forgotten about my digestive mineral water and I hope that I will soon forget what it is even called!’.”
To drink, Lenin preferred strong tea, although while exile in exile abroad he sometimes drank beer. On his return to Russia, he drank wine – but, according to Vyacheslav Molotov, but he didn’t really like it.