A few weeks ago, I traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia to visit my boyfriend, experience a strikingly different culture than my own, and, as it turned out, eat lots of sour cream.
Before I left, I got many food-related questions from my co-workers: “What’s the food scene like?” “Are you excited to eat lots of pierogies?” “Vodka?” I mostly just stammered and told them I figured I’d eat lots of potatoes, cabbage, and mayonnaise. Oh, and no, I didn’t think there was much of a food scene.
In many ways, I was right. There were lots of potatoes and cabbage (it was pretty much still winter there, after all), mounds of mayonnaise, and I certainly drank my fair share of vodka. But there were also pickled mushrooms, chicken hearts, pot-roasted tongue, and pies and dumplings in all shapes and persuasions. There was pickled fish, dried fish, and fish stuffed in dumplings. There was rich, molasses-laden brown bread. There was caviar and salo. There were blini, pigs-in-blankets, and sticks of bread fried in browned butter. There was hatchipuri (Georgian pie filled with cheese and egg) and soup dumplings as big as a fist.
There was the best damn sour cream (smetana) I have ever eaten. You could taste the pureness of the cream through the tangy culture; I probably could’ve eaten buckets, or else made ice cream out of it. Let the French have their creme fraiche. Give me Russian smetana any day.