by Oleg Nikishenkov, Clipper Russia, Moscow
Russia becomes a religious country, despite the fact that acting Russian constitution proclaims, that the Federation is a secular state. Let’s be objective: the country has fully turned away from its previous atheistic communist history. Among other things it means that now all main religious holidays (both Christian and Muslim, two most wide-spread religions) are celebrated officially and all over the place, with participation of almost entire population.
All recent opinion polls unanimously confirm the notion, saying the population is indeed very religious and almost every other person considers himself or herself as a votary of one or another religion. Meaning from now on they must strictly follow all traditions and never forget to celebrate key events of their beliefs. Most of Russians are the Russian Orthodox Church followers, so they observe Lent and celebrate Easter, which was on Sunday, April 28 this year.
The strict Easter Lent rules orders “new old Russians”, as they jokingly call themselves, to follow a quite long diet. It is forty days long plus another seven – to nine days during the Passion week. It could be a dry-eating diet (each believer chooses diet for himself or herself), which allows eating various dried fruits, such as dried apricots, prunes, figs, dates, raisins, and nuts. The diet can also include raw vegetables and fruits. Russians meet the resurrection of the Savior with Easter cakes, baked from yeast dough in the form of high cylindrical bread, topped with dried fruits, nuts, glace icing, bread figures, and other toppings. There are almost hundred types of Easter cakes. But the “classic” one is the simplest and in fact, this type is consumed by the vast majority of not so rich these days Russian people: it’s just a plain cake staffed only with little raisins inside. Aida Rabueva, deputy director of Luch-Nut trader, said cheap widely spread sorts of raisins (like Malayar or Sultana varieties)and simple bread. This simple recipe makes Easter cakes really accessible for people of all level of incomes. Such type of Easter cake can cost in supermarkets as low as US$0.50. Of course, it does not exclude Easter “rally” of expensive restaurants and bakeries to make amazingly decorated cakes, true masterpieces of culinary. Rabueva said during Lent and Easter holiday sales of cake ingredients surge up to 40%, particularly visible in mentioned inexpensive raisins and peanut segments. Dried fruits and nut are also widely used to cook compotes, porridges, stuffed sweet potted cheese and other products.
Statistics say that consumption of cakes during Easter is really amazing: thousands of tonnes of cakes are consumed for literally several days of the holiday. This demand stimulates growth of specialized online stores, which offer different Lent or Easter product baskets, which usually contain a combination of nuts and dried fruits, with religious souvenirs, like painted wooden Easter eggs, or little figures with religious scenes. Practically all market players have something special to offer these days.
Charity festival for Easter Gift
Moscow government has jumped on this religious cakes opportunity and organized a regular charity festival called Easter Gift. Five percent from each Easter cake sold goes to charity. The Mayor’s office granted festival participants best places in downtown Moscow and welcomes international food experts, as Muscovites like to taste new things. Such a promotion could be a good start to introduce the local market new things, just how they did it with Italian Panettone cupcake with raisins or Iranian nut halva desserts, which found their place on Russian tables for good. Roughly, more than three million people living in a twenty million Moscow metropolis attend the festival like this.
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