BY ALISSA TIMOSHKINA
It is the afternoon of New Year’s Eve and I’m with my mother in the kitchen of our home in Omsk, south-west Siberia. Pots of boiling water steam the windows, obscuring the snowdrifts outside. On the table are mounds of potatoes, gherkins, carrots, eggs and chicken breast waiting to be diced. It’s a marathon I find meditative but my mother finds trying. As we chop we sing along to the rom-com on tv, “The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath!”, a subtly anti-Soviet satire from 1976 set on New Year’s Eve, full of songs and catchphrases that every Russian knows by heart.
We’re making Olivier salad, the centrepiece of New Year’s Eve, which in Russia is more important than Christmas. Russian salads, among which the Olivier is king, are not the leafy green creations the name evokes elsewhere. Typically rich in mayonnaise, root vegetables and some sort of protein, they hold their own as a main course and deliver the calories necessary to withstand a Russian winter.
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