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Kuznechny Market – St. Petersburg

June 16, 2007

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On June 16, 2007, Linda and I visited the large, covered Kuznechny Market in a residential neighbourhood near the Dostoyevsky Museum. There were not many customers at 10:00 am, although some counters, such as the dairy products, were busy. There were meat and fish sections in the back, with sides of meat and large sturgeon being delivered, but they had no customers. It was not clear to us if the market has a wholesale function, for restaurants, for example, or if it is just retail.

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I had frequently heard of Russian salted cucumbers, but never understood what it was all about. In Romain Gary’s prize-winning book, La Promesse de l’Aube, he talks frequently of growing up in Nice with an occasionally satisfied craving for salted cucumbers from his native Russia. The lady running the stand in the upper picture offered us samples of the salted cukes from the first pile and vinegared ones from the dull green pile in the right back. We bought a two of the salted ones and ate them later as snacks in our hotel room. They were superb. I wish I had bought more. The brine penetrates the whole cucumber without being overly salty. There is no vinegar. The remaining cruchiness is just right. So if you go to Saint Petersburg, bring me back some of the salted cucumbers from the market.

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The dairy counter was also a lesson in culinary differences. The round white loaves that you see are not butter or cheese; they are thick cream, or smetana, which is used so much as a garnish for Russian cuisine. Shoppers would carefully sample the offerings before having their choice put into a little cardboard container. There are also pots of yellow butter. You can see bottles and buckets of milk and cream on the lower level.

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This photo shows what we saw in so many dishes in the restaurants to which we went. Chopped dill and parsley are liberally sprinkled on top. I suspect that what I thought were chives were actually chopped scallion greens. We never ran across those little green chiles in a restaurant..

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Dried fruits and nuts from the southern regions of the Soviet Union were an essential part of the winter diet. They are still very important in Russian cuisine, although those from Georgia have been embargoed, like its wine.
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As we walked by the honey counter, one of the ladies insisted that we taste her honey on a little slip of paper which she held out to us. It was delicious with the taste of a bit of the honeycomb evident. I couldn’t tell on what nectar the bees had been feeding. It was clear that the honey shoppers were very choosy in what they bought.

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