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«Готовим оливье!» [Making Oliv’e! (aka The Russian Salad)] Posted by on Jan 1, 2010 in Culture, language, News, Soviet Union, Traditions

Yes, you guessed it! (Did the (impfv.) verb «готовить» [prepare, make ready; train; make, COOK] in the title give it all away at first sight?) Today’s post is indeed «о еде» [about food], and, as you would expect, it is «о русской еде» [about Russian food] – one of the things we Russophiles (well, many other people might feel the same way too) love the most. But the year of 2010’s first post is not about any kind of Russian food. This post is «о традиционном и новогоднем салате» [about the traditional and New Year’s salad] that was traditional and made on New Year’s Eve «в Советском союзе» [in the Soviet Union] and still is traditional and made on New Year’s Eve «в Российской федерации» [in the Russian Federation]. Yes, today’s blog post is about making «Оливье» [lit. ‘Oliv’e’, mostly known in the rest of the world as the Russian salad’]! Remaining true to the season and its tradition, yesterday I decided to make this «блюдо» [dish] for the first time in my life. Despite having celebrated New Year’s Eve in Russia five times I had not up until yesterday evening tasted «Оливье». Why? one might wonder. Because I’m a vegetarian and this dish – like plenty of other delicious dishes belonging to «русская кухня» [Russian cuisine] – contains meat. Yesterday I made it with soy instead of meat, perhaps not such a great idea considering that I’ve never even tried it before, but it turned out very tasty! I used this recipe when I made my salad, thinking it would not be ‘enough’ in the beginning. Until I mixed all the ingredients together in a bowl (well, in a plastic round box really – just because this made it easier for me to put it in the fridge for an hour first and then take it with me to my cousin’s house) did I realize that it was indeed ENOUGH for about eight people. Here’s an explanation of how I did it in a simple step-by-step tale. Enjoy!

«Взять и сварить (в мундире) картофель (2 (две) штуки)» [Take and cook (lit. ‘in uniform’, i.e. without peeling them first) potatoes (2 pieces)].

«Почистить и мелко нарезать их» [Peel them and chop them up in tiny pieces].

«Взять солёный огурец (можно и свежий)» [Take a pickled cucumber (one may also use a fresh one)].

«Мелко нарезать его» [Chop it up in tiny pieces].

«Далее взять 150 (сто пятьдесят) грамм колбасы» [Then take 150 gramms of sausage (since I’m a vegetarian I used two soy sausages for my salad, though the salad in its ‘real’ form is made with «докторская колбаса», which could be translated as “doctoral sausage”)].

«Мелко нарезать» [Chop (it) up in tiny pieces].

«Далее взять 30 (тридцать) грамм зелёного лука и положить всё в миску» [Then take 30 gramms of chives and put everything in a bowl].

«Потом взять 2 (два) яйца и варить их примерно 20 (двадцать) минут» [Then take 2 eggs and boil them for approximately 20 minutes (I only boiled the eggs for about 12 minutes, but I guess that’s «вопрос вкуса» [a question of taste] each of us will have to ask ourselves)].

«После варки подставить их под холодную воду. Почистить яйца. Далее порезать их и положить миску» [After boiling place them under cold water. Peel the eggs. Then slash them and put tem in the bowl].

«Добавить 100 (сто) грамм зелёного горошка, соль (0,5 (половина) чайной ложки) и майонез (по вкусу [Add 100 grams of green peas, salt (half a teaspoon) and mayonnaise (according to (your) taste].

«Тщательно перемешать содержимое миски» [Thoroughly mix the content of the bowl]. «Теперь салат “Оливье” готов!» [Now the salad “Oliv’e” (i.e. ‘the Russian Salad’) is done!]

When preparing various salads for New Year’s Eve in Russia all you really need to know in the Russian language is two words (one is an adverb, the other a verb): «мелко нарезать» [‘to chop up into tiny pieces’]. That’s what each and every Russian citizen is doing for most of the 31st of December – standing in the kitchen with a knife slicing up all sorts of meats and various vegetables into very small pieces and then drenching everything in liters of mayonnaise. This is called «готовить салаты» [preparing salads] in Russian. I usually joke that it’s not really cooking Russian style if you haven’t used enough mayonnaise to rub your entire body in it, but hey, that’s just me. And I’ve lived almost four years in Yekaterinburg, the city where they eat the most mayonnaise in the world!

When I first realized that I was going to celebrate this New Year’s Eve without chopping up anything at and nothing into small pieces, I rejoiced. But when New Year’s Eve finally came around yesterday it just didn’t feel like a true «праздник» [holiday] to me without grabbing a knife and slicing up something… Thus I made my first-ever, home-made «Оливье» and served it to people who had never been to Russia at my cousin’s New Year’s party last night.  It was eaten with pleasure and also received very good reactions from non-Russophiles. One of them said: “To me this is how Russia must taste!” And I suppose that’s correct. Russia tastes just like ‘a Russian salad’ (word pun intended) – good, very good!

«С Новым 2010 Годом всех [Happy New Year of 2010 everyone!]

P.S. reading comments like this one on the blog really made the year of 2009 end well… Thank you all for yet another great year with Russia!

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  1. Ani:

    If any American will venture out to make this salad at home, they should know that the mysterious Doctors’ Sausage is bologna. Although when I make it at home, I use ham – it’s a bit tastier! Love your post.

  2. Josefina:

    Спасибо, Ani! As a vegetarian (and European) I would not have been able to figure that out on my own 🙂

  3. hugo ly:


  4. Larry:

    Sounds yummy. We had a truly Russian style New Years here in Erie PA with several salads one shaped like a Sunflower and one like a clock face, Yummy. Also to help with the salads were блин, икра, водка, вино and коньяк от Украниа

    все очень вкусный!

  5. Lada:

    А когда в советские времена “Докторская” колбаса пропала с прилавков, мы просто использовали варённую курицу.Тоже классно!Колбаса может быть из пищевого картона, а куры даже в России- куры.

  6. Homo Post-Sovieticus:

    I’ve added your blog to my blog roll at
    I have a few modifications for this recipe:
    add fresh cucumber and sour apple;
    using uncooked frozen peas also adds to the crisp taste;
    use carrots finely chopped after boiling them in skins;
    another replacements is white onion for green – use cilantro or parsley for fresh herbs;
    skip the sausage links – if you simply must have meat in this salad, boil lean beef instead;
    choosing safflower mayonnaise may bring mayonnaise haters to the table, too. Or make a separate batch with cold-pressed vegetable oil (olive, sunflower for a stronger flavor) or sour cream.
    carrots – морковь
    cilantro – кинза
    parsley – петрушка
    beef – говядина
    sour apples – кислые яблоки (антоновка)
    green peas – зелёный горошек
    And a bit of history: As students in the Soviet Union back in the 70s we did not have access to all ingredients. When we couldn’t get (не могли достать) mayo and canned peas, we settled for a reductionist version of olivie – 4 potatoes, 2-4 eggs, 1 onion, 1-2 pickles, and a cup of sour cream with salt and black pepper to taste.

  7. Charly:

    Great post! And after reading it I had such a craving for a Russian Salad, that I finally prepared myself a bit late last night. (A very trimmed-down version, though, no meat, no potatoes – but I always like to prepare those salads with home made mayonnaise. Very tasty – and I ate way too much of it and couldn’t sleep at all later…)

    Your food posts are always very inspiring! 🙂

  8. Karyn Dubravetz:

    Thanks for the recipie – yum!!! This is the only Russian food I’ve ever tried. I have to admit, when I first made it with my roommate in Volgograd, I thought it was the oddest combination of ingredients!! But I couldn’t believe how delicious it tasted! I’ve made it for a few parties but maybe I’ll try this recipie – it’s a little more exact and has a few more ingredients than I use.

    Thanks for the nice comment in your blog – I’m glad you noticed. I always enjoy your posts – keep up the good work!


  9. Alan Sargeant:

    As an Australian Russian fan who would like to live there to become totally fluent Imust say that I have consistently enjoyed your articles over the past two years or so.

    You combine humour, knowledge and a sense of love for both the language and its people.

    Well done Keep it going please.

  10. Leona Semizian:

    Thanks for the recipe. I have had Russian salad before without the meat but with carrots instead of onion.
    One grammatical question: why is the word “contents” (at the end) put in adjectival form instead of noun?

  11. Stas:

    Josefina, try researching the origins of the Оливье salad. You would be surprised. Maybe even enough to write another post about this salad.