Boycott the Russian salad: a restaurant in Zaragoza turns it into “Kiev salad”

  • The Mesón Martín in the capital is renaming it tomorrow in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and they are not the first: there is a history of changing the name of dishes for ideological and political reasons

The Meson Martin de Zaragoza decided last Sunday, February 27, to change the name of one of its most famous dishes: Russian salad. In a message through their Instagram account they announced that was renamed “Kiev salad” in “solidarity with the Ukrainian people”.

A score of comments praised the decision made by the owners of this restaurant, qualifying the idea as “brilliant” or “great”. In the post, the photo of its emblematic salad, considered one of the best in the city, appeared decorated with the blue and yellow stripes of the flag of Ukraine.

“Today it seems unbelievable to us that there are still wars, so that’s why We decided to change the name of the salad. As a sign of rejection and a gesture of support towards the Ukrainian people“, Explain Sergio Martinowner of the inn, which has been open in Zaragoza since 1991. To his mother Mariví, who is in charge of preparing this Potato-based salad, hard-boiled egg, tuna, vinegar, mayonnaise and “a ‘top secret’ sauce, the idea also seemed “great”. Martín adds that his intention is that when the conflict ends “the salad will continue to be from Kiev, to remember that wars in the middle of 2022 do not make any sense.”

In any case, the decision made at the Mesón Martín can also be understood, apart from human rights, as an act of gastronomic justice. The invention of the Russian salad has always been attributed to chef Lucien Oliver (1838-1883) during her time at the Moscow Hermitage restaurant, opened in 1864. This would make her Russian by birth, but, as documented by Pau Arenós in his book ‘Swimming with tuna and other gastronomic adventures that don’t always go well’ (Debate ), the recipe is already cited in the book ‘The Modern Cook’, published in 1846 in England by the Italian-London Charles Elmé Francatelli, chef to Queen Victoria. So Russian, at least as far as what has to do with the passport, nothing at all. The version that appears in that recipe book includes anchovies, lobster, crayfish and prawns under a red mayonnaise, made with shrimp coral. Calling it ‘Russian’, explains Arenós in his book, could well have to do with “Francatelli’s fantasy titling a jumble to give it the essential touch of mystery, distance and sophistication & rdquor ;.

Although we all love to clean up a plate of Russian salad, it is not the first time that political and ideological fluctuations have changed its name. In Spain, where it has always enjoyed enormous popularity, during Franco’s dictatorship his last name was changed from “Russian & rdquor; by “national” to prevent anyone from considering it pro-communist propaganda.

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Not even the innocuous – well, perhaps not so innocuous taken in excess – French fries have not been without controversy. In the United States they decided to change the name of ‘french fries’ -by which they are known there- for ‘freedom fries’ when the French government decided to oppose the war in Iraq in 2003. And, beware, because the decision was made in the House of Representatives.

This American trend of renaming popular food had already had an antecedent in the First World War. At the time, it became popular to call the burgers ‘liberty steaks’ to get rid of the German origin of the original name.. One more demonstration that wars and their consequences reach even the most unexpected corners.

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