16 Nostalgia For Soviet Canteens

Nostalgia For Soviet Canteens

Posted on November 7, 2011 by team


Soviet canteen! Practically anyone under the age of 30 understands what it means. Beginning from semolina with clots in kindergarten, biscuits and cakes at school, student canteen (any joy, there may be tainted cutlets or nourishing and delicious food) and rather good canteen at the workplace.

Tosya Kislytsina, a character of the famous Soviet movie, with artful movements scattered cooked beforehand borsch, bound together macaroni and salad about the plates… People were waiting with trays and trifling with aluminic spoons and forks.

Cultural service to every client.
The decision on organizing public catering (later it was called “obschepit” in Russian) was one of the first Soviet government decrees. By the way Russians were the first as opposed to Americans at fastfood business.

New era dictated new names for dishes – no “consommé” or “dubarry” could go with soups in factory canteen.

Moreover public canteens should have played a great role – free women of household chores. Now they could spend less time on cooking.

Down with house cooking! As a result women have lost their skills of cooking and children often like catering food rather than home-cooked meals (some children prefer eating meat dumplings bought in a shop).

The first Soviet canteen of War Communism period had nothing common with concept of culinary. It was an extremely cheap place to fend off hunger. It was the low price that accustomed people to have no complaints about the quality of food.

Really, there were canteens where it was very risky for your health to eat. There was one university canteen that served cutlets with a “very good smell”. Perhaps it was made for hungry students who lived apart from their native towns. Those who lived in the city of study were the lucky ones unlike the others who had to cook in the hostel.

Worker, struggle for a clean canteen and healthy food.

Some went to have a lunch in nearby pancake bars. It was possible to eat delicious pancakes cooked before you with the help of special device there. It was more expensive but rather safe.

According to Irina Chebotareva, a former cook in one of Soviet factory canteens who worked there for many years, the salaries weren’t very high: 4th rate cook – 80 rubles, 5th rate – 110, 6th rate – 140. They didn’t get any extra money and bonuses though they worked from early morning till late night. It is disappointing her when people say that Soviet canteens were primitive.

“Wanna a secret? Many experienced Soviet cooks work in modern restaurants. They cook the same dishes but they have more attractive names. Fried chicken – “Cockerel’s Solo”, cabbage and cucumber salad – “Vegetable Prelude”, schnitzel – “Royal Meal”, meat in a jug – “Village Paradise”, pumpkin porridge – “King Arthur’s Golden Porridge”. According to Soviet concept healthiness was the key point of catering. It’s better to stew rather than fry food. Vitamins, calories, proteins and carbohydrates were calculated in any dish. This is no fastfood. Cooks loved their job and did all their best” – says Irina.

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16 Responses to “Nostalgia For Soviet Canteens”

  1. geoff says:

    Was it free or cheap…..was it breakfast lunch and dinner…..could a family eat all their meals there…..How did it all work ?

    • JJ says:

      It wasn’t free, but it was really cheap. Most of the time you eat dinner. But “dinner” was a different concept than it is to Americans. You refer to “dinner” as the largest meal of the day, which is usually consumed at the evening. Largest meal of the day was usually consumed during lunch time, so you’d probably refer to it as “lunch”.

  2. George Johnson says:

    “Clots” sounds so yummy…

    My blood “clots” after I get a cut.

    I clean out “clots” of hair in the sink.

  3. Robert says:

    These pics of the canteens looks like the same one in the beginning of seventies, but in Austria. And of course, the fattest food was the ‘healthiest’, and the taste horrible.

  4. Hirsh says:

    “By the way Russians were the first as opposed to Americans at fastfood business.”

    I question if Russians understand what “Fast Food” really is if they think that is true (probably just ER playing with words). If ER is simply talking about self serve, no table side waitstaff, cafeteria style dining… then Americans have been doing that since at least the 1890s.

    Follow the link and scroll down to “history”…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cafeteria

    But at any rate this is not “Fast food” as we all know it.

    • Archy Bunka says:

      You New Yorkers out there may remember the “automat”. Where you could buy very good food for little money. All food was wrapped and refrigerated behind these little glass doors, and you would walk around, look through the doors and buy what you like. Infinitely superior to any of the fast food places. Unfortunately, for some economic reason, they didn’t last past the seventies.

  5. Otis R. Needleman says:

    Wow. You’d have to be starving to eat a lot of that “food”.

    • Hola! says:

      Wow, man! So, you better eat GMO, conservants dripping pretty looking artificial taste well-enhanced so-called food, than this soviet organic “food”. It doesn’t look pretty, but I bet it was healthier.

      • Hirsh says:

        Have you ever tasted Russian food? lol, just sayin’… doesn’t matter how healthy it is if you can’t palate it! ;)

      • bulka says:

        well both, all that food is basicly the same, you don’t even imagine what kind of bullshit they put into food in canteens, because they put milk into old, old potaoes to make them look lighter and better, the meat is usaly garbage, because cookers take the best meat for themselves, in CCCP they put antibiotics into milk that it would last longer, there were no real control of the ammount of pesticides put into vegetables, so people all around the world eat so called garbage, but it’s cheap, you want really good food, grow it on your own,m or be ready to pay really much for it

  6. Matt says:

    What’s that? Apple Juice? Beer? I think I would have to drink beer to eat that stuff.

  7. Maesrobert says:

    Some (relatively) fancy-looking cutlery in a couple of the shots make a contrast with the food! The general ethos of this type of catering lingered on well beyond the end of the Soviet Union.

  8. John Wrexham says:

    The canteen outlived the Soviet Union. I ate a great meal at a ‘menza’ in Sochi – a tasty three course meal for less than the price of a Big Mac. If only we could swap a few Soviet canteens for our dreadful ‘Service Stations’ here in the UK!!

  9. The Great MacAttack says:

    In 1990, when I was 11 years old, I had the opportunity to take a three-month long trip across the USSR which ended in a month-long stay in the Far Eastern city of Provideniya. I remember that there wasn’t much food available at the state shops and my meal for the day was borscht and bread at the local canteen. It was delicious and to this day borscht with dense Soviet-style bread is my favorite meal. As the Spaniards say “hunger is the best sauce.”

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