Yulia Vysotskaya (pictured), Russia’s answer to Nigella Lawson, has caused a scandal by criticising borsch. The beetroot soup – a traditional Ukrainian dish which Russians have adopted as their own – is, says Vysotskaya “disgusting”.
“I hate it as a dish and I hate it as a symbol,” she spits. Gazpacho, says Yulia, is a far better alternative.
In these nationalistic times, with Russians torn between embracing the new and reviving the old, her comments have hit a raw nerve. Critics say that Vysotskaya, a favourite with millions of TV viewers, has lost touch with her audience.
There are hundreds of foreign restaurants in Moscow, but one of the capital’s biggest success stories is Yolki Palki (Goodness Gracious), a chain of affordable restaurants aimed at the new middle class which offer exclusively Russian fare: meat cutlets, cabbage pies and an all-you-can-eat zakuski (starters) buffet. Lately blini kiosks have sprung up all over Moscow and Vilka Lozhka, an old-fashioned Soviet stolovaya (workers’ canteen), has opened on the Arbat in the centre of town. The upmarket Russian restaurant Pushkin, open 24 hours, is still a place to be seen: its miniature mushroom pies are legendary.
Vysotskaya takes the opposite line, encouraging Russians to ditch their favourite black bread and babushka’s home-made jam in favour of Thai green chicken curry.
Irina Mikhailovskaya, editor of Russian Elle, says this is no longer chic: “Initially she was exciting but now her show has got a bit tired. I think people would like to see a man doing a show like this now.”
Step forward Andrei Makarevich of Smak (Yum) on Channel One. His speciality dish? Russian kebabs. Now that’s more like it.
Then again, maybe Yulia will find herself arrested any day now. She’s obviously a traitor to the Fatherland!