You won’t be seeing any new posts for the next week as I will be in Ukraine conducting research for some stories. I will update the blog with anything relevant from the trip once I get back, but I’ll also be busy with some translation work and of course, those articles for which I’m making the trip in the first place. Of course you will be able to read the whole story once it is published. By who, you ask? That really depends on who answers their email.
Because it’s like to be a long time before I’ll be able to sit down and write a proper post, I’d like to leave you with this special photo essay, in which I showcase various unusual products I have found in Russian supermarkets over the past couple years. Enjoy.
Stuff I Find in Russian Supermarkets
1. “Our Jag was still there!”
This photo was taken in Magnit, at least several weeks after the announcement that Moscow was planning to ban the sale of alco-energy drinks. Obviously the ban had not yet gone into effect, but somehow the knowledge that it was coming on the horizon made this display look all the more poignant. I stopped to wonder just what will happen when Jaguar disappears from the shelves. Then I suddenly thought of an appropriate song, based on the American national anthem, which captures the crucial role Jaguar plays in society. In my mind I penned the words:
And the gopnik’s mad glare
The screams filling the air
Gave proof through the night
That our Jag was still there!
2. Man contemplates chicken nugget
Here we see a man, specifically Georgiy Dronov, star of the Russian adaptation of Everybody Loves Raymond, experiencing utter fascination at the sight and feel of a chicken nugget. Closer inspection reveals that he is not merely contemplating the nugget in silence. What might at first glance appear to be an isolated text blurb is in fact a speech bubble, meaning Dronov is actually talking to the nugget. One might think that the text, which contains advice for the potential customer, isn’t actually directed at the nugget at all. If that is the case, why is he staring so intently at the nugget? Or could it be that he is attempting to talk to the customer, yet cannot tear his eyes away from this mysterious feat of food processing? You decide.
3. Canned deer
There it is, between the Heinz Mushroom soup on the right and the happy three little pigs who got butchered and stuffed into metal cans on the left- deer in a can. Hell, you don’t even need to read Russian. There’s a goddamned deer right on the can.
I have never gone hunting in my life. I don’t have strong feelings against the practice, but I just know I have no desire to do it. That said, something felt very wrong about this product. The deer is a wild animal. It was meant to run free, lick salt, and if it must meet an early end, it ought to be by a .30-30 bullet or a Chevy Cavalier. I have no problem eating venison, but there’s something not right about slaughtering deer en masse and stuffing them into cans. I just couldn’t bring myself to eat this product.
4. Slavic ham
See that canned ham there? That is Slavic ham. It is for Russians, Poles, Belorussians, Ukrainians, Serbs, Bulgarians, Croats, Slovenes, Macedonians, Bosniaks, Montenegrins, Slovaks, Czechs, and yes, Sorbs. Latvians? No! You can’t have any. Estonians? Nope, sorry. Get your own ham. Romanians? I don’t think so. Only Slavs can eat this ham because it is Slavic ham. Everyone else has to either get their own ham, or just not eat ham at all.
5. The worst beer on Earth
You know how wherever you go in this world every country seems to have some national brand of beer? This is even worse- store brand beer. Yes, store brand beer. The label makes no pretenses whatsoever, it simply says “light beer” (light as in color). At just over 24 rubles per half liter, this swill manages to rival Vinogradniy Dyen in terms of bang for your buck…er…ruble. Of course, you might want to think twice about drinking this if you already know what Vinogradniy Dyen can do to you.
6. Vatnik blood bank
This is vata, what you find inside a vatnik. Should a vatnik be severely injured, they will require a transfusion of this stuff and a steady regime of bed-rest and Russian TV for at least a few weeks.
7. Canned hipster beef and pork
In general there’s nothing unusual about Russian canned cow and pig anus, but this brand appears to be going after the hipster demographic. Either that or they’re trying to imply that they only kill painfully pretentious cows and pigs, the kind of animals who babble on about “deconstructionism in the post-Marxist, post-Capitalist world,” and whose hobbies include kickball and playing kazoo covers of 80’s butt rock classics. No doubt they’re fed overpriced grilled cheese sandwiches and PBR at the farm.
8. Bastardo- the wine that cannot inherit
This wine was born of a lowly servant girl who had a night of passion with the lord of the manor when his own lawful wife was with child. Thus it is illegitimate and thus deprived of any birthright, this wine goes into self-imposed exile and makes a living as a mercenary far outside the realm. One day, however, he will return and challenge his half-brother, the legitimate heir, for the title to their father’s lands! Let the church say what it will- blood is blood just the same!