Pirogs and Pâtés

[Translator’s note: Pirogs (filled pastries) have always beens essential for Russian festivities. “Pirog Day” (Pirozhnyj den ), the third day after a marriage, was traditionally the time when the young bride offered guests a selection of pirogs and pirozhki. The quintessential pirog in Russian culture, of course, was the one envisioned by Chichikov, the protagonist of Gogol’s Dead Souls. No real pirog has ever quite matched its grandeur or indigestibility. Pirogs usually were round, but Molokhovets preferred rectangular ones. Pirozhki are small pirogs. Whether large or small, they come in many shapes and sizes with the doughs as varied as the fillings. Some have special names. Karavaj, for instance, is a large, round loaf that was part of the traditional offering of bread and salt, the Russian gesture of hospitality; rastegai is a small open-faced pastry with a fish filling that was customarily served with ukhas and other fish soups; kurnik is another festive pie, one that was often served at weddings. The Russian word pashtet comes from the German Pasteten via Polish. Originally this meant a rich forcemeat baked in pastry (pâté en croûte), but with the passage of time the emphasis has shifted to the forcemeat itself (pâté en terrine), which is commonly known as pâté. Molokhovetspirogs encased the filling in pastry; with a few exceptions, her pâtés just had a top layer of pastry or none at all. Her pirogs tended to include pieces of meat, fish, or poultry with grains and vegetables and almost no forcemeat; by contrast, forcemeat fillings predominated in the pâtés. (For a good discussion of savory and sweet pirogs and of their role in Russian culture, see Kovalev, Rasskazy o russkoj kukhne, 140–145.)]

    In this section