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The Wonderful World of Snacking Posted by on Sep 18, 2021 in Food, Russian life, Uncategorized

Imagine it’s 10:30am, you had breakfast not too long ago, but you realized that you проголода́лся [have become hungry] and you just can’t make it to your обе́денный переры́в [lunch break]. Мо́жет быть, пора́ закуси́ть что́-нибудь [Perhaps it’s time to snack on something]?

But before we dive into the endless world of snacking and to stuff our бездо́нная я́ма [bottomless pit], let’s learn a bit about snacking in the context of Russian.

Photo by Caio from Pexels

The word “snack” is usually translated in one of two ways, but first we should learn an important word:

Куса́ть [to bite]

Maybe you’ve had to assure a stranger on a walk that your соба́ка не куса́ется [dog doesn’t bite].

This is where we get the versatile word кусо́к [a piece, a bit]. Used with the роди́тельный паде́ж [genitive case] we get a piece of something – кусо́к хле́ба, кусо́к то́рта, кусо́к мя́са, кусо́к пи́ццы.

We also see this root in the word вкус [taste, flavor] and вку́сный [tasty, delicious] and even (somewhat disguised) in ку́шать [to eat].

Заку́ска – this usually refers to either a part of a larger meal (something akin to an appetizer or a side dish) or a “chaser” for vodka in the form of чёрный хлеб [black bread], огу́рчики [pickles], or селёдка [herring]. Maybe if you drank a little too much and you’re acting a little crazy, someone will tell you Заку́сывать на́до! Нельзя́ же пить натоща́к! [You should eat something! You shouldn’t drink on an empty stomach!] The prefix за–  is reflected in the liquid version of “to chase” – запива́ть.

Переку́с – a light snack between meals. As you can see, it has the prefix пе́ре-, which, in this case, suggests a transition, an idea that finds parity in a common English phrase—to having a snack “to hold you over.” Bota wrote an excellent article about this prefix not too long ago, along with examples of its usage. Забега́ловка – э́то ме́сто, где мо́жно перекуси́ть [A hole-in-the-wall eatery is a place where you can grab a snack.]

But what can you expect to snack on in Russia? Чай is very rarely taken alone, so there are a number of sweet snacks that you can have к ча́ю [with tea], including шокола́д, торт, пиро́жное. Teatime snack time can turn into a full-fledged mid-day dessert, complete with кекс, торт, or the more modern American imports бра́уни or ма́ффины, especially if it’s somebody’s birthday. For a savory snack, you can have some су́шки – dry bread ring things, usually draped over a самовар in every picture of Russian teatime you can find.

During the summer months, expect to snack on арбу́з or any other све́жие о́вощи и фру́кты from the дача. К пи́ву [with beer], the most appropriate snack would be гре́нки [fried pieces of bread], суха́рики [croutons]. But my favorite, of course, is to stop by one of the numerous kiosks, usually located in the city center or near the вокза́л [train station] and grab some пирожки́ [baked or fried buns with a variety of fillings].

I know that you already starving and I would not like anyone to помере́ть с го́лоду [to die of hunger]. So please, go open that bag of чи́псы and finally get back to work!

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Comments:

  1. David W Roberts:

    The word чи́псы must come from American English – we Brits call them Crisps. British chips are part of the traditional British “Fish and Chips” which we can get hot and ready to eat from the chip shop. I think Americans use the word “fries”, but that tends to imply “French fries” which are like our chips but very thin and taste more like American “chips” but a different shape and served hot. So, kak po-russki our British “fish and chips” ?

    • ryan:

      @David W Roberts Yes, David, чипсы is a loan word from American English. What you would call “chips” in known in Russian as картофель фри, and so delicious British fish and chips would be known as “рыба и картофель фри.” I also really enjoy the double plural: “chips” is already plural in English, and with the Russian plural ending -ы added we get чипсы. But English speakers do the same thing with words like “pierogis.”


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