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Photo Essay: Dacha Season Kicks Off in the Russian Countryside

  The “dacha,” or country cottage, is a cultural institution in Russia. The tradition began during the Soviet Union when dachas were given as rewards to good workers. Dachas play an important role in providing food for the Russian table. During lean times, Russians can always count on the food they grow and preserve at their dachas. The classical Russian childhood includes summer vacations to … Continue reading Photo Essay: Dacha Season Kicks Off in the Russian Countryside

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Russian Vegetarian Cooking Shines During Lent

During the Russian spring, the sun transforms into a pancake. At least, that’s the folk story mothers tell their children while cooking blinchikifor breakfast. This flat, circular cake, which can be served for any meal of the day, is a symbol of the sun’s return to the cold, dark climates of the Northern Hemisphere. It’s served crepe-style, rolled up and slathered in honey or jam. … Continue reading Russian Vegetarian Cooking Shines During Lent

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The Cowboy Trade Builds a Bridge of Friendship Between a Russian and an American

  Yury Rybakov hadn’t ridden a horse before. Nor had he herded cattle or thrown a lariat. But he had the cowboy bug and wanted me to teach him a thing or two. I was spending the week on Angus Shestakovo Ranch, where Yury worked. I agreed to help, but warned that learning the cowboy trade doesn’t happen overnight. In the American West, old cowboys who’ve honed their … Continue reading The Cowboy Trade Builds a Bridge of Friendship Between a Russian and an American

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Russian Cowboys Learn to Ride Western

American cowboy Shane Stotler points out his truck window at a herd of cattle just cresting a hill on the horizon. Normally, he’d be out there riding with the Russian workers he’s been hired to train by Miratorg, Russia’s largest cattle operation. Instead, he’s waited for me at ranch headquarters so we can drive out to the pasture together. As the cattle come closer, I … Continue reading Russian Cowboys Learn to Ride Western

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(Part One) Inside a Russian Slaughterhouse, It’s a Far Cry From ‘The Jungle’

How far has the meat industry come in the 110 years since the publication of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”? To find out, I visited a state-of-the-art slaughterhosue in Bryansk, Russia. This is the first in a two-part series for National Geographic’s food blog, The Plate. Continue reading (Part One) Inside a Russian Slaughterhouse, It’s a Far Cry From ‘The Jungle’

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Episode 1: The Story of a Steak

In 2011, I ate a steak called the MosCowBoy. Like the name suggests, it was at a steakhouse in Moscow, Russia. Costing $75, the beef was imported from Australia, making that steak a symbol of Russia’s major food security problem. The country imported nearly half of all its red meat, costing $4 billion a year. But a government program aimed to fix that problem by importing cattle and cowboys from America. That’s what I was doing there in the first place. Now I’m going back, five years later, to order that exact same steak. Has Russia’s cattle industry grown to the point it can supply its own meat? I’m on a quest to find out. Continue reading Episode 1: The Story of a Steak