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Russian culture and food in CNY celebrated during Winter Games in Sochi

By WKTV News

WKTV, (UTICA) - During the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, we're learning and celebrating Russian culture in our own back yard. We spent a Sunday learning how to make traditional Russian dishes with the sisters at St. John Russian Orthodox Church in Utica.

We found some of the traditions in the kitchen that date back centuries.

Svetlana Derevenets tells us Russians pickle just about everything to keep vegetables for the winter season.

Pickled cherries are called compote.

Kristina Shikula says many dishes are prepared with beets, cabbage, and potatoes.

"The beets...are a big part of Russian culture, because with the beets you have the borscht and the vinaigrette, which is beets cut up with other vegetables with peas and carrots," Shikula said.

Russian Borscht can be made vegetarian during the fast or with meat. It's a base of beets, and has carrots, potatoes, and onions. If meat is added, it's cooked on the bone and used for flavor.

Galupsia is Russian cabbage rolls. They're similar to Polish cabbage rolls, stuffed with ground meat and rice with a tomato sauce.

"Shuba" is a colorful salad made with beets, potatoes and salty fish like herring.

But as with Russian art, music, dancing, and prayer, nothing is left to chance. The food is prepared with an artistic and meaningful precision.

"Everything's beautiful, when we sit down to a Russian meal, it's always the intricacies of the dish," Derevenets said. "We like to have it created nicely it is our tradition to have everything beautiful!"

In preparation for Easter, Russians will fast for weeks.

The Very Reverend Arch priest Michael Taratuchin explains some of the reasons behind the traditions. For example, before Great Lent, the Russian Orthodox people will use the last of their eggs and dairy preparing Blini.

They're similar to pancakes. It's the last meal containing those products before the fast for Great Lent. For more than seven weeks, they'll do without meats, most oils, and dairy and poultry.

At the end of Great Lent, there is a celebration and a feast. The food is blessed, and everyone gets to indulge and celebrate that "Christ has Risen."

In Russian culture, there is no shortage of food when people gather to eat. Everyone is always welcome, and treated like royalty at the table.

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