When I think about Russia, I mostly think about beets. Well, that's not actually true. I mostly think about Vladimir Putin and his sexy pec muscles astride a horse crossing a stream carrying an AK-47, but in the context of food, I think about beets, the staple ingredient of the Russian delicacy, Borsch.
A refreshing side dish to have with your main course of... Vodka.
So when the country is in a panic, I would expect beets to be FLYING off the shelves. Not a spare beet on the streets. But that assumption shows just how naive I am about Russian cuisine because in actuality, the food that everyone is slitting their neighbor's throats to get ahold of happens to the pseudo-grain, Buckwheat.
As you might know, Russia (and its predecessor the Soviet Union) is no stranger to war, famine, revolution, and other catastrophes. After doing some research, it appears that buckwheat, not beets, has been the go-to food item during times of economic hardship for centuries.
But how Sway?
Legend has it that over 1,000 years ago when the Greeks monks were spreading Christianity faster than... erg probably too soon, anyway, they not only came hard to the Eastern block with their Bibles, they also brought an ancient "grain" with them too. One that was so delicious, so nutritious that Russians took to the magical seed instantly.
The Russians named it Grechta, after the Greeks who introduced it to their culture. Ever since, Russians have been boiling it and baking it, making porridge and pancakes with it, and loaves of bread too,
In short, they fucking LOVE that shit.
But now, with 'Rona restoking fear of famine in the hearts of all Russians, there has been Grechta panic on the streets.
Why? Despite our shirtless hero Vladimir Putin warning against over-buying, shelves that used to be filled with buckwheat are completely empty. In addition, recently, buckwheat prices across Russia have shot up, in some areas by more than 50%. Rumors are swirling about bad harvests and grechka shortages. In fact, the #1 food Russians are stockpiling is Buckwheat.
A Buckwheat shortage. Who'd have thunk?
No matter how much Putin says that "hey, there's nothing to see here", given that Russians are known for their steely demeanor amidst uncertainty, this run on their most staple shelf-stable items shows, that people are SCURRED. When we Americans heard COVID was coming, we stocked up on Charmin. Well, when Russians sense a crisis brewing, the first thing they'll do is stock up on buckwheat.
Given how impossible it is to buy all of the normal recession go-to's like rice, pasta, and bread right now, maybe we should give Buckwheat a try? This recipe:
That Kasha actually looks pretty damn good, even if the article quotes one author as saying kasha "tastes like nothing, or like nothing with a little dirt thrown in." Sounds like the perfect hipster Brooklyn quarantine food if you ask me.