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Soviet fast food: vending machines, cheburek, pyshechny
Soviet fast food: vending machines, cheburek, pyshechny

Since the mid-1920s, the Soviet government has tried to realize the American dream in a planned economy, which boiled down to delicious, quick-cooked food.

War of Primus and Gourmet

Feeding the population of the country is one of the non-trivial and urgent tasks that faced the Soviet leadership soon after the establishment of the Bolsheviks' power. For the organization of the public catering system, canteens, kitchen factories, cafes and restaurants were opened. The food did not have to be tasty at all, but nutritious and healthy, that is, meeting sanitary standards, certainly.

Food was viewed not as pleasure, but as a way of reproducing labor, as a combination of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. This principle, which was understandable during the years of War Communism, was also supported in those days when the catering system was formed and the population did not starve.

Young people have a quick snack

In the 1920s, the so-called Primus War was declared. Gourmet cuisine was considered a bourgeois relic. Yuri Olesha described this process in his novel “Envy” as follows: “War has been declared on kitchens. A thousand kitchens can be considered conquered. He will put an end to shrubbery, eighths, bottles. It will unite all meat grinders, primus, pans, taps … If you want, it will be the industrialization of kitchens. He organized a number of commissions. The vegetable peelers made in the Soviet plant were excellent. A German engineer is building a kitchen …"

American experience in Soviet cuisine

Catering in the country of the Soviets was created on the basis of Western models: in the 1920s, the head of Narpit, an organization responsible for providing Soviet citizens with food of proper quality, visited Great Britain and the United States. Many of the ideas that he saw in the West were later implemented in the USSR. In particular, kitchen factories and canteens.

The catering system included several levels: canteens, cafes, restaurants and fast food outlets. The latter replaced the merchants, who called on lovers of bagels, pies and other mouth-watering unpretentious food, which is easy to eat on the go and which is a trifle, with their shouts.


In 1934, the People's Committee for the Food Industry was founded. Anastas Mikoyan, who headed it, also went to learn from the experience in the West - in the USA. Since then, Soviet officials have not abandoned the idea of ​​making the American dream come true on the basis of a planned economy.

Mikoyan wanted to endow the tasteless, standardized and industrially produced food with a pleasant taste. The hamburger served as the standard for Anastas Ivanovich. He fried a cutlet on a shopping cart, put it between two buns - a ready-made delicacy for a proletarian enjoying the beautiful weather in a park of culture and recreation. This idyll was partially realized - inexpensive cutlets appeared in cookery. But the buns, like those of the Americans, did not go.

Advertising poster of Soviet hamburgers

Mikoyan brought up the idea of ​​a self-service canteen and a wide range of soft drinks. Instead of Coca-Cola, the Soviet Union launched mass production of kvass and lemonade.

A still from the film "Operation Y and Other Adventures of Shurik."

The war and the post-war period pushed the catering back 20 years ago - the system had to be rebuilt. With the coming to power of Nikita Khrushchev, in addition to the political one, there was also a food “de-Stalinization”. The design of the establishments has changed. The concept of abundance in a socialist society, colorfully illustrated by The Book of Delicious and Healthy Food, is a thing of the past. This was due not only to ideology, but also to a shortage of goods: a number of products disappeared from free sale, and prices for meat, milk, eggs and sugar rose sharply by 1962. In such conditions, sausages, dumplings, pancakes, pies, donuts, kebabs, cheburek restaurants appeared.The republics had their own types of institutions: teahouse, samsakan, lagmankan.

In 1959, Nikita Sergeevich visited the United States. Khrushchev's son Sergei recalled the impressions of the first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union after visiting the IBM canteen: “Father was shocked by the cafeteria. In 1959, self-service had not yet been thought of in our country. My father admired the shelf on which the tray moves, the plates and saucers put on display for all to see. He was struck by the shiny plastic surfaces of the tables. The eternally dirty, stained tablecloths turned out to be unnecessary."

During a visit to the meat processing plant, Khrushchev tasted a hot dog. This unpretentious meal did not leave Nikita Sergeevich indifferent, and he ordered to include the hot dog in the Soviet menu. This is how the sausage appeared in the dough in the USSR.

Khrushchev feasts on a hot dog

Chebureks and whites, donuts and donuts

In the Soviet years, pasties acquired the status of fast food, although initially they were not. Apparently, for the first time in the status of fast food, it appeared in 1957 in Moscow, when the cheburek Druzhba opened on Sukharevskaya Square. Like the renaming of the Hotel Ukraine (in honor of 300 years of friendship between Russia and Ukraine), this diner was a tribute to the culture of the Crimean Tatars. Cheburets began to appear in large and small cities of the country. GOST was introduced not only for the composition of the dough and minced meat, but also for their quantity per cheburek.

Belyash - a dish that is also quite solid - was less fortunate: instead of traditional baking, it was fried. "Belyashnykh" never appeared, which is why the appetizer was sold in cookery and cafeterias almost always cold.

Cook, 1930s

As for donuts, they appeared in Russia only in the 20th century (in the explanatory dictionary of Ushakov) - until the end of the 1930s, donuts were mainly eaten. So, in Anton Chekhov's "Steppe" the heroes eat with crumpets: "Saying goodbye to the household, they [the Merchant Kuzmichov and the priest Father Christopher] have just had a hearty meal of crumpets with sour cream and, despite the early morning, they drank …"

Both donuts and crumpets are dough products fried in oil. The first, traditionally, had a sweet filling, the second had no filling, but could have a hole in the middle and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. In the 1939 "The Book of Delicious and Healthy Food", the hole received a donut, although it should have been a donut. Among the eateries there are both donut and gingerbread. The difference in the name is explained not by differences in the assortment, but by the location: donut ones - in Moscow, puffy ones - in St. Petersburg.

In the Soviet cafeteria

Some like it hot

In addition to machines with soda, which made it possible to taste fizzy drinks for a penny or two, there were also units with beer, nicknamed auto-drinkers.

Soda machines A visitor to the pub

In preparation for the 1980 Olympics, dozens of exemplary cafes emerged. True, the culinary traditions of their own country remained inaccessible to Soviet citizens. The beer halls remained for the proletariat and brainworkers. Trade workers diluted the beer, and added a little washing powder to thicken the foam. Buyers flavored the swill with vodka - the Ruff cocktail was obtained. Despite the fact that there were no chairs in the pubs - they had to drink while standing at a high table - visitors could spend several hours there.

Queue to the first McDonald's in the USSR

Mikoyan's dream of hamburgers came true on January 31, 1990 - the country's first McDonald's opened in Moscow.

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