The smell of an acidic ragPhoto: Boris Babanov / RIA Novosti

Soviet power has always been obsessed with the culture of public catering, seeking to force citizens to abandon domestic food. But for some reason dining rooms, cafes and restaurants in the USSR were strikingly different from Western models, on the basis of which they were arranged. “” conducts a brief excursion into the world of the Soviet public catering.

After the puppet theater, I really wanted to eat, just to the point of impossibility. Mom believed that there is a need at home, and there is nothing to wander around in all the places that are not corny, but today has changed anger to mercy. This episode the boy remembered for his whole life – his memories of Soviet times remained quite scattered, but for some reason it was one of the brightest. Probably because many taste, tactile and olfactory sensations are associated with it.

The threshold of the pelmeni, where his mother had led him, was covered with a brown snow porridge, which no one thought to clean. The aluminum door was dirty, with a crumpled wide handle. Brown porridge was not only on the doorstep – it was inside and methodically kneaded by grimy adults in fur hats and coats. A little farther from the threshold, the liquid turned into dirty water and was dragged on felt boots and boots all over the floor.

There was a smell of sour and a little broth-the signature smell of almost any Soviet canteen.

This picture is well known to anyone who happened to catch the Soviet years in a more or less sane age. And, it was perceived as something self-evident. In the vegetable is necessarily the floor, hidden by the earth, and rotten potatoes. In the exemplary supermarket self-service stinks of spoiled milk and stale meat, and the trucks are falling off or just do not go wheels. This is normal, because it can not be otherwise.

However, representatives of the party nomenclature and those close to it remembered this time differently. “There were excellent restaurants,” said sociologist Andrei Vozmitel during an interview with “”. “This is heaven and earth, what was under the Soviet regime, and what is now.” I had a scholarship of 35 rubles. To a girl to go to a restaurant, 5 rubles is enough. It was possible to take Olivier salad and a bottle of “Mukuzani” – a very good wine. A wonderful music program, artists perform, decent people around you, then the deputy minister, then an American, or someone else. Food, communication, dancing – excellent. “

The smell of an acidic ragPhoto: Vladimir Semenov / TASS

The memory of an elderly man who has lived his whole life in a spacious Moscow apartment on Kutuzov Avenue can sometimes play a cruel joke with him. Of course, there were similar restaurants, but they did not particularly like such clients. A bottle of wine and olivier? In theory, it was possible, but in practice, restaurants always had huge queues, and staff did not pay poor students.

The blogger Dmitry Rumyantsev has very different memories of Soviet restaurants. “If the visitor was with a lady or was sitting a company of 3-4 people who ordered not some kind of salads and one hundred grams of dry wine, but forced the table with chicken tobacco, chops, decanters with vodka and cognac, champagne, and even took caviar in the waiters were happy with such visitors, “he says. – To those who asked for okroshka, the waiters all showed that there was nothing to occupy the place and it would be time to fail. It was generally not very simple – to withstand a flurry of cold contempt, which Soviet waiters could disadvantage unprofitable visitors. “

The smell of an acidic rag

Photo: Alexander Bormotov, Vladimir Samokhotsky / TASS

A completely logical question arises: how and why did everything come down to this? Why did most of the population of the Soviet Union remember this Soviet catering? Could it be any different? The answer may seem strange enough: the country’s leadership, since the 1930s, has always wanted to translate the American dream into a planned economy (however, this is also true for other spheres).

Soviet public catering was born during the Civil War, “War Communism,” when the state was engaged in a strict centralized distribution of products in the cities. Nourish the city at any cost, and than – not so important. Lev Trotsky recalled that even in the Kremlin canteen the dispenser was fed disgustingly: sauerkraut and unleavened bread.

“For the state, it was important how much food is nutritious, how much it corresponds to sanitary norms, promoting, according to Marx’s theory, the reproduction of labor. And it really did not matter if it tastes good or not. This approach has been preserved even after “military communism” is a thing of the past. The food service structures that he created continued to function, and many survived to the present day. In exactly the same way, the principles on which they were based were also unchanged, “writes in his book” Public Library. Mikoyan and Soviet cuisine “culturologist Irina Glushchenko.

In the post-war period, after the declaration of the NEP, in addition to state canteens, the so-called home canteens appeared, over which Ilf and Petrov mocked in the Twelve Chairs. Despite the biting of writers, they fed much better, and when in the 1930s the authorities began to close private shops, their employees moved to state catering establishments. But the principle by which they acted, has not changed: nourish a satisfying and “useful”, and the pleasure obtained in the process of absorbing food is not important.

The smell of an acidic rag

Photo: Roman Denisov / RIA Novosti

“The years of hard struggle for freedom of the country go away, others come after them – they will also be difficult,” sang the members of the circle of Shvonder in the film “A Dog’s Heart.” Nevertheless, the twenties were replaced by the thirties, in which a different paradigm gradually developed. “Life has improved, comrades. Life became more cheerful, “Stalin said on November 17, 1935 at the First All-Union Conference of Workers and Workers-Stakhanovites.

In addition, the idea of ​​a uniform distribution of food for citizens through the same dining rooms with the same boring menu has gradually come to naught. In public catering establishments assigned to a certain factory or factory, third-party people started to be allowed, other forms of public catering establishments appeared: the elite restaurants “National” and “Metropol”, as well as all kinds of cafes.

In general, live more fun – it’s like? “A merry life implies not only the mechanical filling of the stomach with fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Standardized and industrially produced food should acquire attractive taste qualities, “states Glushchenko. Exactly this task was set by the People’s Commissariat for Food Industry Anastas Mikoyan. And where to go for ideas, if not to America, which in those years was not yet a geopolitical opponent of the USSR and was perceived by the Soviet leadership as a storehouse of ideas that can be realized within the framework of a planned economy is much more effective.

It is Mikoyan that the Soviet Union owes its love to cutlets. In the US, he saw “good food for mass consumption – the so-called "burgers"”, Which were mass produced at the plant. Fried the “hamburger” directly on the shopping trolley, put between two rolls – and that’s the ideal food for the proletarians who are cultivated in recreation parks!

Buns for hamburgers, however, did not appear, but inexpensive cutlets, produced massively and sold in cookery, firmly entered the life of Soviet citizens – and in fact before the revolution they were quite expensive and laborious in cooking.

From America, Mikoyan brought in much more: the idea of ​​fast food, a self-catering dining room and even almost did not let Coca-Cola in the USSR, but in the end he stopped at mass production of kvass and lemonade.

Here it is, the prototype of the very same Soviet canteen, in which the elements familiar to all Soviet citizens are guessed, in the description of Mikoyan himself:

“We removed from a special table on a light brown tray, put on them forks, spoons, knives and paper napkins … Along the counter in its entire length were three rows of nickel-plated tubes, on which it was convenient to put the tray, and then, it is filled with food, push it further. “

Simple and affordable – that’s what the proletariat needs. And, of course, all this should be delicious! Anyway, most of these plans were never realized – the war began.

After the war and the death of Stalin in 1953 and the coming to power of Khrushchev, the approach to eating and serving in public catering enterprises has changed. In architecture, gradually abandoned the construction of pompous and expensive “palaces for the people”, the Stalin Empire. In the same way, the concept of “socialist abundance”, fixed in the famous “Book of Tasty and Healthy Food”, gradually receded into oblivion, the recipes from which most of the Soviet citizens could not reproduce, only licking at colorful illustrations.

Whether it is better from this is difficult to judge. But, as historian Natalya Lebina writes in her work “Plus the de-Stalinization of all food,” this process was associated with the disappearance of a whole range of food products from free sale. On the one hand, Khrushchev called for socialist competition, pronouncing his famous speech about the need to catch up with the United States for the production of milk and butter. On the other hand, the decline in household plots and private livestock, which took place as part of the fight against private property instincts, led to the fact that the products simply could not be taken from anywhere. By 1962, the authorities were forced to raise prices for meat, milk, eggs and sugar.

It all affected the catering establishments. So, the bread, which you could eat before in the canteen, now became paid. Fall into an institution, take a glass of compote and gorge yourself with bread, as many did, it was already impossible.

If we talk about what the new Khrushchev era brought to the Soviet public catering, it is, first of all, the appearance of those pelmeni, cheburets and pies, which were discussed at the beginning. Yes, the quality of their products for the most part left much to be desired, but, on the other hand, their widespread use allowed a person to eat quickly and inexpensively. They were, of course, not on every corner, but, at least, they did not have to search for them for long.

Like Mikoyan’s world view, Khrushchev’s views on public catering were formed by his trip to the USA in 1956. “And a large food store and a self-service dining room – all this interested Khrushchev,” – reads the signature under the photographs from the book “Face to Face with America”, describing the visit of the Secretary General to the States.

Khrushchev’s son, Sergei, recalled this episode: “Father shook the cafeteria. In 1959, in our country, they did not think of self-service yet. The father admired the shelf, along which the tray moves, displayed for everyone by plates and saucers. The brilliant plastic surfaces of the tables struck him. It turned out to be unnecessary forever dirty, in the spots of a tablecloth. ” It was the dining room of IBM. Upon his return to the USSR, Khrushchev immediately ordered the introduction of a similar approach in the Soviet catering.

The smell of an acidic ragShot: the film “Operation "Y" and other adventures of Shurik “

Besides this and all the famous corn, the secretary-general brought from the United States another product known to every Soviet person – a sausage in the test, which is a free interpretation of the American hot dog. It was Khrushchev who tried it at one of the meat-packing plants he visited and ordered to introduce them at home.

Alas, all these remarkable initiatives mowed and perverted not only the imperfections of the planned economy and the struggle against “private property instincts”, but also the Soviet citizens themselves, who, in the face of growing deficit, made all sorts of tricks to bring their personal life closer to the ideal of a society of universal abundance.

“The desire for a better life was so great and so deeply settled in the minds of people who survived the war and the postwar hard times that the sellers were amazed at their ingenuity to make money, even on non-manufactured goods,” writes Khrushchev’s Culture of Soviet Trade: Virtuosos, calculation and sale from under the floor “historian Rustem Khaziev.

He gives one example of this behavior:

“Desperately professed the philosophy of the” owners of life “two colleagues – the head R. and the chief accountant C. of the dining room number 2 of the village of Tirlian Beloretsk bargaining, trying to diversify their work activities with endless feasts. To organize “eternal” banquets they took vodka, food and “left” money from the storekeeper of the dining room P. Until a certain time, the situation was favorable for both sides. In exchange for supplying the walks to all the necessary things, the storekeeper secretly sold the products, constantly having unaccounted money on her hands. The shortage was covered by fictitious, non-existent invoices about the transfer of products to the kitchen of the dining room, where, not forgetting themselves, they played out on customers, violating the technology of cooking, and most importantly, did not report the products to cooked meals.

He was also interested in the director of the Tearlian grocery store, S., who was accountable to the canteen for the canteen, signed fake invoices. The storekeeper broke the way she lived, when her own interests in money and the greatly increased appetites of the authorities could not be hidden because of the shortage of food products. P., trying to take away the blow, on March 25, 1955, she wrote a report to the director of the store S., who only then gave the matter a move and handed the document over to the director of the Beloretsk bargaining, when the inspection bodies found a large waste in the dining room. “

By the same era, the emergence of a culture of arrogant attitude towards visitors to cafes and restaurants from the staff of establishments. For example, on March 30, 1958, the newspaper “Soviet Trade” received a complaint from the employee of the dining car A. Belov, who together with his colleagues decided to dine at one of Karaganda restaurants, as the three dining rooms in which they tried to do this were closed for lunch break. In the restaurant, the waitress took an order for four dishes from them, but demanded that they order vodka, as “only vodka dinners”. As a result, they had to buy as many as 9 bottles of vodka.

“I would like to note that the quality of the dinner was low, which is much worse than a simple dining room. Cold cabbage soup, cabbage vinaigrette, and on the second dish served cooked liver instead of fried. Lack of control and irresponsibility, forcibly introduce alcoholism, “- indignant Belov.

Of course, do not think that it was everywhere, in every dining room and restaurant, but the “average temperature in the hospital” was exactly this. It is understandable – the enterprise did not perceive the competition, and people complained extremely seldom, agreeing with the status quo.

The smell of an acidic rag

Photo: Irakli Chohonelidze / TASS

Quite an interesting innovation of the Khrushchev era were youth cafes, where, as expected, young people will spend cultural leisure, listening to modern music and performances of poets and writers. The gatherings over a cup of tea were a thing of the past, young men and women preferred coffee, the stiff forms of catering did not attract them. Similar establishments began to multiply in the cities and towns of the Soviet Union, but by the 1970s the country’s leadership had decided to get rid of them. Too unreliable was the idea of ​​a space in which young people listen to jazz (or even something completely unacceptable). In this sense, the old guard of the Soviet public catering, vividly shown in the comedy “Give a plaintive book,” won a crushing victory – indeed, if you recall the plot of this film, then it is just about re-equipping the old restaurant in a youth café.

Finally, the last most important innovation in the sphere of catering was soda machines that allowed you to taste pops (for 3 – with syrup) from a common glass for 1 or 3 kopecks, which can be washed in a fountain built into the unit.

Moreover, during the “thaw” machines with soda were not the only ones – the sale of sandwiches, pies and sausages was automated. “And when you, putting down the counter, after a long rumbling and ringing, could take from the opened iron box a dried sandwich, it seemed that progress was coming and someday it would certainly come,” wrote the Leningrad prose writer Valery Popov. Alas (and maybe it’s for the best), sandwich aggregates did not live to the 80’s, and now they are rarely remembered.

The smell of an acidic ragPhoto: Boris Korzin / TASS Cafe-automaton of the Moscow Power Engineering Institute

Stagnation did not bring anything new to the paradigm of the Soviet public catering, fixing the forms introduced in the 1960s and exacerbating the shortcomings. The tasks were the same: to increase the capacity, the production base, to disaccustom the population from household food.

But the deficit only increased, and stealing more and more. Yuri Andropov tried to start the war with embezzlement in 1982, but it was deployed in respect of retail trade and the public catering was safely bypassed. There have been attempts to consolidate behind each canteen and buffet the groups of public control, run by local party organizations, but it did not bring any real fruits.

The smell of an acidic ragPhoto: Vladimir Vyatkin / RIA Novosti Italian pizzeria on Gorky Street

However, one important event, which greatly changed the Moscow public catering, happened: the 1980 Olympics. Thanks to her, dozens of exemplary cafes were opened for foreigners. In the end, do not lead the same foreign guests in the dumplings! The personnel of these establishments underwent special training, was trained and courteous. The menu abounded in culinary delights – the guests were offered delicacies from both Russian and foreign cuisines.

Alas, the Soviet citizen was not able to get acquainted with these delights for the most part. It was still difficult to get to a restaurant or cafe, the staff treated visitors was still arrogant. Therefore, the proletariat and intellectual workers after work went to the only available place – beer, besides not in the usual, where too the place can not always be found, but in the automatic one.

In general, beer machines, nicknamed in the people “autopilots”, were very common, at least in Moscow. The tanker came, filled the tanks with a foamy drink – and forward. By the way, the dispensed dose was constantly changing. If in 1973 poured 440 grams for 20 cents, then by the 80th for 15 cents it was possible to receive only 200 grams.

Mugs forever was not enough, so the rule of good taste was to bring a half-liter jar (or a can of 0.33 liters of mayonnaise). Of course, the employees of trade here also found the opportunity to bust the consumer. Beer was diluted, and for anybody it was not a secret, and that the drink gave a thick foam, they added there a little detergent “News”. And, it is this, since others were less effective. The citizens were not fools either, and they added vodka for a degree to the diluted swill they had received.

The smell of an acidic rag

Photo: Alexander Chumichev / TASS

In theory, the configuration of such establishments was to limit the time spent in them, – chairs were absent, the tables were standing. However, Soviet citizens were not at all intimidated, and many of them could spend as many hours using the ruff. The image of such a comrade can often be found on propaganda posters against drunkenness: he stands asleep on such a table, squeezing a mug of beer in his hand. At the foot of the table is his briefcase. The tail of the vobla and the neck of the vodka bottle stick out from the portfolio.

With the coming to power of Mikhail Gorbachev and the beginning of the anti-alcohol campaign, the position of catering enterprises only worsened. They became deeply unprofitable – not without reason in the episode mentioned above, the waitress demanded that the workers of the restaurant car order vodka. And the shortage of the most necessary foodstuffs in the second half of the 1980s further exacerbated the crisis in the catering system, and the people lost all their willingness to spend money on such excesses.

But Mikoyan’s dream of “hamburgers” in the USSR nevertheless came to life. January 31, 1990 on Pushkin Square in Moscow gathered a huge number of people, lined up in a giant writhing queue. Above the small Soviet flag was a large yellow letter “M” – a trademark of “McDonald’s”. Those who got inside were choked with cutlets in buns, which they had never learned to produce in the USSR. So the story ended the circle, and American fast food came to the Land of Soviets. The first McDonald’s restaurant appeared on the site of the cafe Lira, just as the new Russia has already sprouted through the cooling corpse of the USSR.


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