July 01, 2018

Seasonal Eating

Sitting down to write this column, I came upon a headline that caught my eye. “Long before US hipsters discovered it, kombucha was a staple in Russia,” it read. The story, written by the Los Angeles Times’ Moscow correspondent, detailed Russians’ long love affair with kombucha or chainy grib, “tea mushroom,” as it is known in Russia, and how it’s making a comeback after a couple of languishing decades. The story mentioned that kombucha was a substitute for all the soft drinks that the Soviets didn’t have, and that it lost its popularity when market reforms flooded Russia with manufactured sugar drinks. Yet now kombucha is making a comeback among Russia’s younger generation as it turns its sights toward healthy living.

You could write quite a few articles like this: “Long before Americans discovered kimchi, it was a staple in Russia.” (Korean pickles have been in abundance on Russian markets and in stores for over 25 years now.) “Long before fermented milk products became a health food in the US, they were a staple in Russia.” (Kefir has only recently been added to supermarket shelves, thanks in large part to a Russian-American firm in Chicago, Lifeway, but its history in Russia is long and storied.)

And finally this: “Long before seasonal eating became popular in the US, it was the norm in Russia.”

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