Studying Geography with Regional Foods: Russia
With the world’s attention on Russia this month, our family decided to make a Russian meal as part of our monthly geography dinner.
It’s the perfect complement to everything we’ve been learning about this country over the past couple of weeks in our middle school geography curriculum.
For our menu, we chose food that has been made for generations: Pirozhki, Salad Olivier, and Apple Sharlotka. Common dishes in Russia, they are made from simple ingredients – kitchen staples rather than specialty items.
Cooking a Russian Meal
Pirozhki means “little pies” in Russian. These individual stuffed buns are a staple in Russia. I think some of their popularity comes from the fact that they can be eaten on the go and are filled with a variety of ingredients.
If you have meat on hand, make them with meat. During leaner times, you can easily fill them with potatoes. We used a ground beef mixture like Juggling with Kids. We baked ours instead of frying them.
Overall, it’s a pretty easy recipe. The biggest time commitment is making the dough.
This is a potato salad that graces the tables during many special occasions in Russia. Although created by a French chef working in Russia, it became known as “Russian salad.”
There are many variations of this salad. It’s one of those dishes that everyone seems to have their own special family recipe.
We chose to make the one shared by Party Tipz, minus the meat. I wasn’t sure about the apple and dill pickles, but this salad was so good! Everyone loved it, especially when chilled.
This popular Russian dessert is quick to prepare and takes only a few ingredients.
There is a lot of confusion about how to classify this dessert. Some say it’s a cake, but it contains no oil or butter. Others say it’s a pie, but it has no crusts. Ultimately, it is a dessert that is chock full of apples held together with batter.
We decided to give the recipe from Smitten Kitchen a try. It is not an overly sweet dessert (it’s sweetness comes mostly from the apples) so we appreciated the dusting of powdered sugar for that touch of extra sweetness.
Learning about Russia
As I shared in my post about our Peruvian Geography Dinner, during our meal, we learn about the country whose food we are enjoying. This time, instead of a presentation, we learned about Russia (and the USSR) through conversation.
We talked about:
- Geography and the vastness of Russia
- Leaders: Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Vladimir Putin
- The Cold War
- Bread lines
- The Russian Ballet and Mikhail Baryshnikov
It was an impressive dinner!
Would you like more inspiration for your geography dinners? Check out my Middle School Geography board.
How fun! Salad Olivier and Sharlotka were practically a staple food (well, a staple food for special occasions, anyway) when I was growing up in the former Soviet Union, but Pirozhki were not as popular in my family, we did minced meat within potato balls instead (something called kulebyaki). I am adding this post to my geography round up!
I couldn’t believe how good Salad Olivier was Natalie! My girls thought the Pirozhki were dry, so they ate it with ketchup LOL! I think I might give it a try with potato filling next time. Your potato ball stuffed with meat sounds really good too! Thank you for adding it to your round up.
Love this idea Megan and a great way to study geography. We love geography and I know y’all do too.
I especially love the ways you share about making geography meaningful for older kids too.
We have been doing a snack thing for countries and will have to share those pictures sometime too, but I love your idea of supper.
Get supper done too! tee hee hee
Thank you Tina! My kids have definitely become more interested in geography over the past couple of years, so I try to do everything I can to build on that interest. I think as they’ve gotten older they appreciate how large and amazing our world is, which helps them appreciate the different cultures and lands. I never thought of doing a snack thing – what a great idea! I would love to see some of those pictures. Yeah doing geography dinners definitely makes cooking dinner easier because the girls are eager to help cook!
What a lovely way to study geography! I really like this idea – I’ll have to try this out. To answer your question – we eat Russian food a lot in my home because I am Russian. Kiddo ‘helps’ me cook dinner as much as he can at 18 months. When he’s a bit older, we will be learning a lot about Russia and America (we live in the Netherlands because Daddy is Dutch). This kid is going to be exposed to a lot of cultures, foods, and languages simply by being at home 🙂
What a lucky boy you have!! He will definitely have some great experiences thanks to your shared heritages. I was surprised by how much my kids liked the food we prepared. We’ll definitely be looking for more Russian dishes to create. That has been an amazing part to our geography dinners – the girls love food that I never would have thought and therefore wouldn’t have made before. They are definitely more open to trying foods from various cultures this way.
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