It is one of the best known dishes of world cuisine, especially appreciated during the holiday period, but the current, dramatic geopolitical scenario could lead to a boycott: we are talking aboutRussian saladthat in the light of war in Ukraine in some countries it has become the object of the so-called “cancel culture”.
The “cancel culture” on Russia
The “erase the culture“, Or culture of cancellation, is that mechanism by which something or someone becomes the object of criticism and protests and therefore excluded from social or professional circles, both online and in the real world. The mechanism has already been activated for many aspects of Russian culture after Vladimir Putin’s decision to militarily invade Ukraine: at the Bicocca of Milan The case broke out after the (later withdrawn) decision to cancel a course on Dostoevsky, one of the most famous Russian writer and philosopher in history, and in the United States several bartenders decided, as a sign of solidarity with Ukraine, to rename the cocktail Moscow mule “Kiev mule”.
Net of the controversies and protests relating to these operations, which have little to do with the war in Ukraine, even the Russian salad inevitably ended up in the crosshairs. However, not everyone knows what this dish gets its name from, and what they are its origins.
Where does the name Russian salad come from
The first thing to say is that the Russian salad is called “Russian salad” only in Italy and in a few other countries, and that the name has little to do with its origins. It is a cold dish consisting of boiled vegetables cut into cubes and seasoned with mayonnaise of which there are dozens of variations in the world, and is traced back to the Belgian naturalized chef, Luciano Olivier. The most accredited version of the origins of this dish is that Olivier created it around the second half of the nineteenth century in the restaurant’s kitchens. Hermitage from Moscow, trying to adapt a traditional French dish to Russian tastes. It is no coincidence that it is also called “Olivier salad”.
The first version, however, was different from what is commonly known today prepared in Italy: inside there were also meat, fish and truffles, arranged in a scenographic way on the plate. Legend has it that a diner mixed everything, and that out of spite Olivier, considering it an outrage, began to serve the “wrong” dish making it a cult revisited by many other chefs and cooks.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the French influence in the kitchen combined with the scarcity of precious and expensive ingredients led to a series of reinterpretations of the dish, of which the basic version with potatoes, vegetables and mayonnaise remained. And it is not even the first time that it has been opposed for political reasons: in Spain the Francoist regime prohibited references to the Communist regime, and the Russian salad paid the price by becoming “Castilian salad“.
The Italian origins of the Russian salad
Another theory on the origins of the Russian salad is instead that it is from Italian originin particular Piedmontese. In fact, in the 19th century there was a “rusa salad”, That is red, because it is made from beetroot. According to some sources, the dish was proposed by a cook of the Savoy court, on the occasion of the Tsar’s visit to Italy at the end of the nineteenth century: the chef would have paid homage to guests using products typically grown in Russia such as carrots and potatoes, with whipped cream. place of mayonnaise to symbolize snow. The Tsar would have been enthusiastic about it, and would have brought the recipe home and contributed to its spread.
Then there are those who say that the Russian salad served in Italy does not take its name from Russia, but is a reference to the “Russian service”, That is a type of meal in which the courses are served all together.
In Northern Europe and, more precisely, in Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, the salad with carrots, peas, potatoes and mayonnaise is called “Italian salad” and is served on slices of bread with smoked meat. In Finland, they are even used to replace potatoes with spaghetti or other pasta shapes, in order to make it even more “Italian”.