In Soviet Russia, Cucumber Eats YOU!
December 6, 2012 7:56 AM   Subscribe

In Soviet Russia, Cucumber Eats YOU!: okay, I can't believe I'm using a question on this, but I've been driven mad by it for years: my dad claims that Russians eat cucumbers in a certain distinctly Russian manner, and that Yul Brynner once ate one that way in a film. Do they? Did he?

Okay. I KNOW this is ridiculous, but: my dad grew up in a freshly-immigrated Russian family and socialized with other freshly-immigrated Russkies in his youth. He has long claimed that "when a Russian eats a cucumber, he does it in a certain way", and that Yul Brynner once demonstrated this Russian cuke-consumption style in a movie. He doesn't remember which movie. Nor will he SHOW me how a Russian eats a cucumber. I do not think he's pulling my leg (he's not a big practitioner of long-form pranks, and he's been asserting the Russian Cucumber Mythos for decades).

Any input, Hive Mind? Spasiba!
posted by julthumbscrew to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Uh, peeled and sliced with sour cream?

That's how my dad eats them. Other than that, I too am interested in hearing about it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:58 AM on December 6, 2012

I'm from Russia and the only difference I've noticed is that Americans tend to leave the peel on. In Russia, at least where I grew up, the peel is either removed wholly or left on in lengthwise strips.
posted by griphus at 8:06 AM on December 6, 2012

I lived in Russia for only one year, and I primarily kept myself to Saint Petersburg. So this may not be true of all Russians in all pieces.

When I had cucumbers there, they were cut lengthwise, so you had long triangular pieces rather than thick round pieces. So you'd eat the cucumber more like a pickle.

I don't recall anything special put on them, except maybe some salt or with a sour cream and dill dip.
posted by zizzle at 8:12 AM on December 6, 2012

Also cucumbers put into a salad are generally cubed or diced, not sliced.
posted by griphus at 8:15 AM on December 6, 2012

I have seen sliced w/sour cream and sliced very thin with thin red onion slices in red wine vinegar, which I suspect is actually Hungarian.
posted by elizardbits at 8:16 AM on December 6, 2012

In Googling around, I am finding a number of references to pickled cucumbers, and to small pickled cucumbers as an accompaniment to vodka consumption.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:16 AM on December 6, 2012

Lengthwise instead of slices. Peeled. In season served on a plate with other greens - parsley, dill, radishes, etc - at the beginning of a big meal to accompany the vodka and cold cuts.

Also: Yul Brynner was a remarkable person.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 8:30 AM on December 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

Not Russian, nor have I been there, but in Act 2 of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard there's the stage direction "Takes a cucumber out of her pocket and eats." Maybe it's a poor translation, but I've always envisioned someone taking a whole cucumber out of their pocket and just biting in to it.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 8:35 AM on December 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

I lived in Estonia for a bit - so not Russia but in the region - and people would take cukes to picnics and cut off big chunks (maybe an inch long) to eat, rather than thin slices. I can't remember if they also just bit into them as radiomayonnaise suggests, but it rings a bell.
posted by penguin pie at 9:01 AM on December 6, 2012

When I lived in St. Petersburg, which is as far north as Anchorage, people just cut them in thin rounds and ate them with salt. Constantly. With tea. As a snack. No matter what the time of year was, there were ALWAYS cucumbers available. When I asked about it, because vegetables there were generally very seasonal, I was told that there were local greenhouses just for cucumbers, green onions and cilantro.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:35 AM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Huh. First time I hear about it. How old was your dad when he came from Russia? I knew a professor who was brought to United States from Russia when he was six years old. When he described certain aspects of Russian life it was clear that he was talking from perspective of a six year old. Normal size objects suddenly became "size of a whole house!". Maybe something similar is going on with the cucumbers?

All I can think of is cucumber salad (peeled, salted, sour cream) and semi-salted cucumbers. Otherwise I'm at a loss. (I do love cucumbers, thought)
posted by Shusha at 10:09 AM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know about the eating method but I visited the USSR on a youth exchange from the US in 1988. It seemed like we were served an entire cucumber with every meal. I want to say they were served whole but I could be wrong on that.
posted by tracer at 10:40 AM on December 6, 2012

Moscow Cucumber Street Vendor 1909

One of the thousands of cucumber sellers. The natives eat them whole, rinds and all, as we eat apples.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:48 PM on December 6, 2012

Maybe he meant differently as in different situations / contexts, rather than the actual physical act of eating them.
posted by trialex at 1:21 PM on December 6, 2012

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