Food in Russia: what's hot in a cold country

OITNB: All things Russian (from my Russian POV)

Well, it’s not neccessarily about food, but I think it might be an interesting topic. There are many Russian things, people and concepts in the show which reflect how Americans may see us, but is it always the truth? Let’s find out.

photo credit:

photo credit:

Before I start, I must say that I really love the show and I love Red, too. It’s really refreshing to see such a genuine and good person on American show (as opposed to stereotypical bandits we see on many movies). I don’t think I’ve seen any good Americans (major and fully-developed characters) in Russian movies either, which is sad. 

1. The only people who speak Russian without an accent are Dmitri (Red’s husband) and Ganya (mob boss)

Red has an epic, pretty damn convincing accent while speaking English, but her Russian doesn’t sound like it’s her mother tongue (because it isn’t). Other people including Katya Healy, Pavla (Katya’s mother), Russian ladies being tit-punched and of course Healy have distinct accents. In my opinion it isn’t a drawback, it’s just that finding so many actors speaking Russian wasn’t realistic.

2. Red does look somewhat Russian

Yeah, I know Kate Mulgrew is Irish-American, but in the show she is kinda Russian-looking (and her Tit Punch outfits are awesome – so 90’s!).


I can easily imagine a Russian lady in Red’s age looking something like that.

3. All other Russian people look Russian/Slavic, except for Vasily

Vasily is Red’s son who helped her to smuggle contraband through the sewer (and who also visited her alone). He doesn’t look Slavic to me. Sure, you can see many people who look like that in Russia, but they are mostly Armenians, Chechens, Tajiks, Uzbeks etc. or kids born in mixed marriages. But we clearly see in the 3rd season that Vasily’s mom, dad and all siblings look Slavic, so that guy may be not the best fit for that role. His features are probably closer to people of Arabic descent.

I mean, look:


4. Chicken Kiev is not such a big deal here…

In The Chickening Red said that she wanted to “eat the chicken that is smarter than other chickens and to absorb its power. And make a nice Kiev.” But truth is, Chicken Kiev is definitely NOT the most popular chicken dish in Russia, and not the one Russians would miss abroad. It is too complicated and many people don’t even know what it is! The most popular one would probably be a fried chicken leg, or whole grilled chicken or may be even Chicken Tabaka (which is, in fact, delicious Georgian dish).


But not Chicken Kiev. It is probably one of those dishes which is the most famous among foreigners, but are rarely cooked in home country (like General Tso’s chicken or fried rice).

5. …and so are matreshkas

We see them near Red’s bunk. Again, it’s probably a symbol of Russia for Americans, but in fact, it’s not like people proudly keep them at houses or every Russian owes them. It’s more like a souvenir for foreign tourists. I tried to think what Russian woman like Red would decorate her “room” with, but I didn’t come up with anything. If she was religious, even a little, may be it was one or two small Orthodox icons, because they are very popular even among people who are not super-religious. But Red is not like that. Knitted pillow-case (which we also see in show) is a good one, may be some family photos, too? Or one of her home city? May be a picture by famous Russian artist with Russian landscapes? I don’t know.

6. (Just in case) Russian and Ukrainian are two different languages

They share some similarities, but it’s not like Russian native would understand 100% of what Ukrainian native says, and vice versa (though it’s more common for Ukrainians to know both languages). Think German vs. Dutch (not US vs. UK English).

We know Katya is Ukrainian, but she speaks Russian. That’s why Red (Russian) is able to understand and translate what she says. But we see Healy with both Ukrainian dictionary (s01e07) and Russian audio course (s02e02). So which language is he learning?

7. Red’s father entrepreneurial story

It’s intersting, but it sounds a bit strange to me. I’m terrible at guessing age, but let’s assume Red is in her 50s at least. Then it must happened in 70s or 80s. At that time, there wasn’t many opportunities for entrepreneurial initiatives in USSR. In fact, if someone doesn’t work officially (which includes working for yourself, e.g. selling home-grown produce or whatever), they were criminally charges with “social parasitism” and sent to prisons. Salesperson worked in regular shops, thed didn’t went from door to door and put money in their pockets.


8. Red’s divorce

It likely doesn’t have anything to do with Russian, but it’s about Red and her family, so here goes. To my opinion, her divorce happened too quick and didn’t have enough reasons. In s02e13 when talking to Sister Ingalls, Red compares Dmitri with another man, Pavel, and her opinion was “Dmitri was tame in bed, bold in life. Pavel, the opposite. I went with life.” But in the 3rd season Dmitri suddenly turned to “worthless mushoom of a man” (s03e06), just because he didn’t tell Red that their shop was closed. That’s all that you need to divorce a man who brought you to another country, have been hustling in a shop and with whom you have 4 children. Well, yeah, they are grown-ups now and there is this Healy thing going on, but still, Russian women are not that quick with divorces. Quite the contrary – they tend to keep a marriage (relationships) even when they are clearly broken. Of course not every single Russian woman is like that, but many are. Just sayin’

9. Russian cookies – they are for real! 

Yep, these oatmeal cookies in the right corner are authentically Russian with a legit Russian package.

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That’s all I have to say about this topic. If you have any questions (especially if you’re from OITNB and you’d like to consult with me about Russia :)), feel free to hit me in the comments.

P.S. My fav character is Nicky though – she better be there in Season 4.


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This entry was posted on June 24, 2015 by in Thoughts.
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