Saturday, October 23, 2010

Would you like fries with that?

In grade ten, I remember my crazy (but brilliant!) art teacher Mr. Schnarr telling us about a painting one of his former students had done. The student had manipulated the ubiquitous symbol of McDonalds', the golden arches, to stand in as a nod to the ancient Roman practice of building triumphal arches over cities they had conquered. The painting was meant to be a social commentary on commercialism, capitalism, probably a lot of other -isms...and 16-year old me thought it was very clever and edgy. I still do, actually. Because one thing is true...those golden arches of McDonalds' are recognized around the world, and they really can be said to symbolize the triumph of America at its best/worst, depending on your viewpoint.

Irony: a McDonalds in Russia with a typical cement block/apartment building behind it. Capitalism meets Communism.

Since the first "Mak Doh-nalhdz" opened in Russia in 1990, the previously foreign concept of "fast food" has become part of daily life. At first, people were so excited by McDonalds that they were actually getting married in the restaurants! (somewhat similar to my previous post on engagement photos in Starbucks here) Today, the novelty doesn't appear to have waned. Russians still love their Mickey Ds. In a recent poll I did in my class of teenagers, ALL of them professed a love for McDonalds over any other type of fast food, although Burger King came in a close second. Here in Mytishi, there is a McDonalds, a KFC, and a Subway all in Krasnii Kit, or Red Whale, the shopping mall. It was a little disconcerting the first time I walked into the mall and saw the mini food court set up just like something you'd find in North America. It was like coming home! A little piece of North American culture in the middle of Mytishi (although that's pretty sad, that McDonalds and KFC remind me of home...and I can't even remember the last time I ate at either of those places! I have to confess though that the presence of Subway makes me really excited. I haven't tried it yet but I'm saving it for a rainy day...which is pretty much every day here in Mytishi now that I think about it...ok enough with this long, random train of thought).

Anyways, American-style fast food is very popular here, but that's not to say there isn't a Russian version of fast food. Perhaps the most popular is called "Kroshka Kartoshka." I originally translated this as "My Darling Little Potato," but a Russian student I taught last month, Katya, told me it's more like "My Little Potato Crumb." Either way, its a really cute name!

Standing out front a Kroshka Kartoshka in Moscow

You can find Kroshka Kartoshka stands, kiosks, and little restaurants EVERYWHERE, and there are always line-ups. What exactly is their specialty? Potatoes. Baked potatoes, specifically. With just about every topping and stuffing imaginable - several different kinds of cheese, smetana (sour cream), real (!)bacon, crab meat, pickled vegetables, peppers, herring, mushrooms...honestly, there are more but these are all I can remember. And the price? A standard potato with butter and cheese is 26 roubles (less than a dollar Canadian) and the toppings/stuffings are only 8 roubles each. Wow!

My friend Hannah deciding what toppings she wants...a hard choice!!

As someone who has never really been a fan of McDonalds or other standard American fast-food, I think something like Kroshka Kartoshka is a really cool idea. Its definitely very Russian, and I wonder if it could ever catch on in North America the same way that McDonalds has caught on over here. Either way, one thing is sure - potatoes, whether in french fry or baked form, are definitely popular here!


  1. I found the (!)real bacon thing really funny, I've heard the stories of human meat in russia but never really believed it too yeh that kinda makes me think if other places actually have other kinds of bacon that one would not want to eat. Overall the place sounds amazing, the prices seem really inexpensive and since you wrote about it I'll assume that it tastes really good too. I would really like to see this in North America, its a healthier alternative to Mickey Ds, but I don't think you should hold out hope for having it stay that inexpensive if they do start a chain and make the move to NA.

  2. Love the title of this post. Gives me happy thoughts! BTW,it looks dry and relatively sunny in the picture in front of the Kroshka Kartoshka.

  3. Katie, I am enjoying your blog. Great read. Keep up the good work! It warms the heart, to see you looking so good, in your pictures. We are having a rainy day, this Sat. Oct. 23rd.

  4. I find it funny that you're excited about the real bacon because you don't even like bacon.

  5. haha Mum that's because the picture was taken back in September! (Although today it's actually sunny and dry, so I will have to hold off on trying out Subway)

    Thank you Mary! I'm so happy you're enjoying it!! :) I hope the weather has cleared up for you!

    and Rhea I was just emphasizing the real bacon for people who like bacon so they know if they come here, they don't have to put up with those bacon bits...a good blogger has to consider her audience when writing ;)

  6. REAL BACON!!! Someone got yelled at yesterday because someone already ate half the bacon that mom bought for the week. Its obvious that not enough was bought. That place sounds soooooooo good, just ate and now I'm salivating again mmmm.

    As for the name Kroshka Kartoshka, kroshka = crumb and kartoshka = potato, so its essentially 'potato crumb'. No idea how you got my darling in there lol

    Give Rhea a hug and tell her she is awesome because she is :)

  7. Rhea, you are catching on to Katie. We wondered how long it would take. Ha ha.