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Shashlik - Russian Traditional Barbecue
September 24, 2012 21:27


Besides traditional New Year Russian salad, Maslenitsa pancakes and Easter cake, barbecue on Labour Day and all other warm sunny days is considered one of the main holiday dishes of the year in Russia.
In Russia barbecue is called "shashlik" (or shish kebab). Though the name looks rather exotic, the traditional ingridients are very simple: some meat in marinade, a company of hungry people, various drinks, several cars, free weekend and nature.
The necessary ritual's elements are: buying food and drinks, marinating meat in a big pan, coming late to the assembly place, stucking in common traffic jams out of the city, stopping at some beautiful place in the forest or the riverside, making fire and starting cooking. Then goes music, toasts, swimming in an ice water or sunburning. Of course, some details can change, for example, you can make barbecue on your doorstep if you have a weekend cottage. In fact, the process of the barbecue eating is far less important than various preparations for it.
Russian people's passion for shashliks is linked with some Asian tones in Russia's big and colorful portrait. Prairie nomads often cut meat into pieces to roast it faster due to constant lack of fuel for fire, while people living in forests (ancient German or the Slavs) roasted entire carcass at once.
Shashlik's history is long and vague. We know it's been a main dish of people in Central Asia for centuries. It first appeared in Russia's big cities in the 19th century, and was one of the few dishes to survive the Bolshevik revolution unharmed.
Russian barbecue's historical context is revealed in a total patriarchy by the fire. Barbecue in Russia is a territory for males only, who control the whole process of cooking. Women are only allowed to slice vegetables or to make the table. But they are also the first tasters for shashliks. Soviet times left another stamp on traditional barbecue in Russia - in the conditions of constant deficit the process of choosing the "right" meat in shops and markets was almost sacred and could be carried out only by The Chosen One. The highest standard was to have tried-and-true butcher in friends. To date, the meat choosing has become much simpler, as you can buy tons of meat in marinade in almost every supermarket. 
Of course, there is also a traditional way of preparing meat at home. It is usually marinated overnight in a high-acidity marinade like vinegar, dry wine or sour fruit/vegetable juice with the addition of herbs and spices. Shashlik is originally made of lamb (in some extent pork or beef) depending on local preferences and religious observances. These skewers of meat are either all meat, all fat, or alternating pieces of meat, fat, and vegetables such as bell pepper, onion, mushroom and tomato. Shashlik can also be made of fish or marine products.

 

Russian traditional craving for common cause is also showed in making Russian barbecues, as that event is strictly cooperative and badly needs a big company. So, a picnic with shashliks is a perfect way to gather the whole family or friends together. Fresh air stimulates the appetite - and brings the people closer. That's how our ancestors used to do - gather around the fire, fry the meat and talk to each other.
Previously, Russian people preferred making shashliks on spring holidays (Labour Day or Victory Day) or on summer weekends. Now the tradition is changing, as more and more people find it very pleasant to make barbecue parties in autumn, adding green goods to the traditional barbecue menu. As is known, there is no bad weather for a good company. Especially when meat is being grilled..

 

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Author: Julia Alieva

Tags: Russian Cuisine barbecue Russian holidays   

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