One of my fondest memories of having breakfast with my mother was when she would lightly boil a couple of molochnye sosiski (literally milky sausages, frankfurter type) for me. I would eat them methodically by first peeling off the skins and only then chewing on the wobbly, pink meat inside. I almost never used a fork but would snap up a sausage with a characteristic ‘plomp’!
Of course sausages – and in Soviet/Russian context I always mean frankfurter sausages, and not the meaty bangers of the British variety – were of somewhat iconic status during the times of Soviet ‘deficit’, well, most times then. These little bright pink things were amongst the most desired: cooked in minutes, loved by whole families.
This is despite the hoards of anecdotes, and fairly real life examples, of what went into these sausages. Or rather, what didn’t go into them. Actual meat was mostly missing, was the common half-knowing joke.
‘Instead toilet paper went it!’ we all laughed and gulped another sausage. (why toilet paper? my theory is that too was mostly missing from the shelves and when available it had an alluring pink colour…).
We all loved our sausages nevertheless. And it is them I was nostalgising the most when moved to these foreign lands. At first my mum would smugle them through the UK borders, later I stopped eating them – or local Sainsburys pack for £1 variety – all together. My ethical consciousness was born. Only happy animals that have lived the life better than most of us Soviet citizens were to be eaten…
Until now that I’ve found a milky sausage with a clear consciousness.
I have just come back from Moscow where I went to write an article for a certain in-flight magazine about the seeming renaissance of national cuisine in the capital of Russia. Whilst my aim was to research the most interesting restaurants serving food from ex-Soviet republics, inevitably I have discovered that the food of old Russia is also being resurrected.
LavkaLavka is a chain of shops and a cafe in Moscow with a – somewhat surreal for a Russian ear – slogan ‘Support your local farmer!’. They sell ‘natural’ products that have a specific provenance and a farmer’s name attached to it. Pretty obvious for Britain, revolutionary for Russia.
Most of my Russian friends would cry out ‘Comon! we’ve always bought stuff from little babushkas who sold what they’ve grown!’.
True. But what LavkaLavka is doing differently is creating a viable business model that is built on specified principals of what is ‘ethical’ (organic certification is almost non existent in Russia) and allows farmers to get proper money for their work. The company educates its customers about the reasons for their products costing more.
Yes, my eyes are also slightly rolling thinking ‘middle classes’, ‘ponsiness’ and even ‘class distinction’. But like with organics in the UK, few would argue with the basic principles of such an enterprise – the importance of knowing where your food comes from and how it’s actually made, the support of business and agricultural diversity. Some may quarrel about the execution. In Russian environment in particular with almost non existent state support for smaller farmers and high level of corruption, LavkaLavka have started something meaningful.
But back to my sausages.
I grabbed breathlessly at a pack of pale (not pink) Molochnye Sosiki from Tatyana Yeryomkina from village Petrovskoe.
These are made out of mixture of pork and beef with a natural, very thin casing – too thin for the peeling in fact. The snap is sublime though, as my local Shoredites would no doubt notice.
And so I have tried to recreate the world-famous image of sausages with peas with bottles of beer above. No beer on Sunday morning sadly, but instead a proper grenka (rye bread fried in egg) and a mug of coffee. Bliss, no other word.