CNN’s review «Breakfast around the world: How different countries start the day» took its readers to a not existing (and never existed) world of luxury eating in Russia saying that local residents prefer … caviar, a delicacy that most people cannot afford even on big occasions.
The text published by CNN Travel and written by Casey Barber, a food writer, photographer, and illustrator read as following:
“Though it sounds indulgent, caviar is actually a Russian breakfast food. Whether red or black caviar, it remains a favorite topping for large, folded crepe-like blini or small, thick oladyi pancakes at weekend brunches.
On weekdays, however, breakfasts are simpler. On these mornings, caviar is spread across dark, sweet rye bread, known simply as black bread, sometimes with a smear of butter as well.
Most importantly, a pot of black tea is a fixture on every breakfast table”.
The description is funny and untenable. It looks irony just as if a Russian media wrote that the Americans’ breakfast would consist of whisky, carrot pie or roasted turkey.
Social networks users fired back with sarcasm and humor:
“My bear chases vodka with pancake with caviar only. He doesn’t like rye bread, spits it out.”
“Americans are lying, we drink vodka all the day.”
“I wish I always had breakfasts of the type CNN wrote about.”
“This caviar again! I’m fed up with it! Can’t eat this anymore!”
“After breakfast all Russians play balalaika for an hour.”
“I spread caviar across any type of bread.”
“I can’t imagine cognitive dissonance that occurs in minds of the Americans when they read it.”
“Excuse me, but what you wanted from CNN?”
In fact, any kind of caviar, be it salmon caviar or black caviar, is an extremely rare delicacy on an average Russian table. It costs so much that an average family doesn’t even think of buying it for birthdays or family celebrations let alone ordinary days. Retail price for red caviar (humpback salmon) is 650 rubles per 250 g when buying online and even higher at a supermarket. Black caviar online is… 8,000 rubles per 250 g. There is no mistake here, it’s really eight thousands rubles per one quarter of kilogram. And that’s farmed caviar, not «caught» in the wild as fishing sturgeon in the Caspian Sea has been forbidden for many years. You can taste the real black caviar which was obtained illegally by poachers in the Caspian, but it seems a bit difficult and costly.
The prices mentioned above are extremely high compared with incomes which have been steadily declining since 2014. In 2018, an average Russian enjoyed himself with a salary of just 36,857 rubles a month, according to official statistics. He could buy a bit more than 1 kg of black caviar for that money or nearly 15 kg of salmon caviar without the possibility to pay for other food, transport, utilities and so on.
Naturally, there are a lot of people who earn 100k+ rubles per month, but most people never have more than 50-60K with many earning 15k, 20k, 30k rubles. And they have to pay more and more for products and services which tend to get more expensive. By the way, look at current prices for some items in St. Petersburg (that’s regularly updated).
Though, we have never heard of or known someone from upper-middle class or the rich who eats caviar for breakfast. Maybe such people do exist, but that’s just not a common eating practice in Russia anyway.
What do Russians eat for breakfast? We summed up our experiences and surveyed a few friends, that’s what we got:
— muesli and milk;
— bread with butter and cheese or with only cheese or with only butter;
— porridge (many kinds and tastes);
— eggs (boiled, fried);
— creamy cottage cheese, curd cheese;
— rarely: pancakes (blini) and something more substantial and more time-consuming to cook;
Black tea? Yes, that’s right, Russians love tea and drink it for breakfast and then numerous times during a day. But no less often than green tea and coffee, which has been rising in popularity.
So, okay, do Russians eat red caviar? Yes, we do on big occasions, it’s also served during evening parties and other events like that, at high end restaurants and even (rarely) fast food chains. For example, you can have a pancake with red caviar at Teremok, a chain featuring Russian cuisine. It’s about red caviar. Black caviar can be tasted only at restaurants or purchased at shop and boutiques.
Read also our post on other stereotypes about Russia and St. Petersburg in particular.
P.S. We will publish a list of St. Petersburg’s top Russian cuisine restaurants here, they almost all have dishes with caviar. Follow our website or social media accounts to get an alert as soon as it’s published. If you need information on where to buy caviar in St. Petersburg, leave us a comment under the post, but generally it’s on sale at any retail chain.
P.P.S. It’s imitation salmon caviar on the photo to the post. It’s made of seaweed, flavors and colorants. We bought it for 79 rubles for 220 gr. Absolutely tasteless.