Last week my mom went to St. Petersburg and she brought me back a few little goodies. In contrast to the countries surrounding Russia, like China and India, there’s really nothing good to say about the culinary qualities of the former republic-- and for once I don’t think we can blame Lenin and his comrades. It’s just always been like that. The food is heavy on boiled meats, mashed potatoes and lots of thick gravy which is great at wintertime but during summer I would personally not get near that menu.
But what about their candy?
Russia is currently experiencing the hottest summer in 70 years and while the farmers are mourning their dried out crops and old people shrivel up and die like barn flies, the St. Petersburg kids swim in the lakes and harbours and are probably having the best time ever. And eating the stuff I have now laying on my kitchen table.
As I don’t know any cool Russians in my neighborhood I’m just going to take my chances on guessing what’s inside the wrappings. I found the Cyrillic alphabet online so I tried to translate the candy title characters into the roman alphabet.
First we have two cute juices called MAABIWAM featuring two small babes eyeballing some fruit. A banana juice (!) and a cherry/apple combo.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they contain 1% fruit and 99% chemicals, but in this case I’ll donate my body to Umami science:
Banana- Eek, soap taste with banana scent.
Cherry/Apple- Blah, flower water with a hint of fruity toilet cleaner.
Ok, so no surprises here. Maybe they’d taste better with a rum or vodka infusion on the rocks. And I bet that’s how those Russian street kids deal with this shit anyway.
Next up is a bag of mooey milk caramels with three different cows called TURIBA.
Usually I’m not a sucker for caramel especially when it’s hard and unchewable and just sticks to your mouth with the promise of instant cavities. But these are actually quite good. They break easily and feel almost powderish like freshly made caramel should, and they taste very milky/buttery. Quite good.
The little chocolate with the Russian girl called MOIOCHN’IJ is so cute I don’t have the nerve to rip the paper clothes off and eat her.
The taste is probably quite generic so not the biggest loss. I like the background behind her– very funky Eames 1958 wallpaper.
Last up is a giant box edition of my favourite Finnish candy, Fazer Salmiakki, which my mom got on the boat between Finland and Russia.
You can get it as normal chocolate bars in Sweden but not in Denmark as no one would probably buy it. The sinful combination of milk chocolate and fierce salty liquorice caramel is only for the international candy connoisseurs– it’s sweet and salty and if you consume too many it will eat a hole in your stomach besides making you puke black. Which of course only Amy Winehouse would dig.
Many people find it quite disgusting. I remember once when I lived in Tokyo, some Danish friends sent me salmiak liquorice which I then brought to my coworkers at the gallery I worked in. They all took a bite, chewed politely, and then went straight for the dustbin to spit it out. Japanese mouths prefer food that tastes less than a little, and it seems they are not used to the harsh sensations of dark and salty liquorice.
After these quick bites I am open for more stuff from Russia (and Finland). Who knows, there might be some fabulous umami secrets hidden beneath the public layer of mashed potatoes and meat cadaver soups.
*Anders is based in Copenhagen where he draws kids books and refuses to cook unless he has guests.