Yaroslavl is a city on the Volga that attracts visitors with its architecture, cultural traditions, celebrations and festivals. It is 260 km away from Moscow. The city is the capital of a popular tourist route – “The Golden Ring” of Russia. More than three million Russian and foreign tourists visit it every year.
Tourists find the peculiarities of Yaroslavl lifestyle interesting, especially those of its cuisine. Gastronomic culture is definitely a trend of our time which has extensive touristic potential. In December, 2015 a project called “The Yaroslavl Feast” was launched in response to the requests of tourists who wanted to find out more about the gastronomic traditions of the Yaroslavl region. The project focuses on the revival of the culinary history and traditions of Yaroslavl and nearby towns and villages.
A special emphasis is given to the history of everyday life, with the help of the extensive usage of ethnographic material from the museum. The authors came across their first difficulties at the preparation stage. While the subject of the Russian cuisine had been thoroughly researched, the history of the Yaroslavl cuisine had never been properly looked into. The authors had to collect the information piece by piece from the diaries dating from the end of the nineteenth to the beginning of the twentieth century, recollections, ethnographic reviews, and newspapers of the beginning of the twentieth century. The result of the long and extensive scientific research came to be a gastronomic map of the region in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The exhibition materials tell of the excellent quality onion, green peas, herbs and cucumbers that were grown on the Yaroslavl soil, as well as the poultry bred for the best restaurants of Saint-Petersburg and Moscow. And Yaroslavl confectioners were famous not only in Russia, but also outside it.
The authors have been busy searching for recipes of the traditional Yaroslavl dishes. As the city is situated on the great Russian river Volga, fish was the basis of the Yaroslavl cuisine (sterlet, burbot, pike, sturgeon). There are quite a lot of fish recipes found in the historical sources.
An interesting task was to identify the traditional recipes that we still in use in Yaroslavl families. There were ethnographic expeditions to distant corners of the Yaroslavl region set up for these purposes. Local museums were of great help in collecting and recording the peculiarities of culinary traditions. Their staff wrote down the recipes described to them by the locals who had passed them on from generation to generation. As a result of this effort, the most interesting recipes were published.
Almost immediately after the opening of the exhibition, authors have faced another problem: the visitors wanted to taste the dishes described at the exhibition. That is why the search for partner restaurants that could recreate the taste of those dishes began.
We were in luck. The search was successful. We were very fortunate to find among the representatives of a business that is so different from the museum sphere those who were also interested in the topic of the traditional Yaroslavl feast. It appeared that the restaurant “Vanilnoye Nebo” had also been looking into this subject in order to include traditional Yaroslavl dishes into its menu. The restaurant representatives familiarized themselves personally with the books of the eighteenth and nineteenth century from the museum collection, and chose recipes. As a result of this cooperation, the dishes of the traditional Yaroslavl cuisine cooked according to hundred-year-old recipes entered the standard menu of the restaurant. These dishes are now in high demand.
A gastronomic tour under the same brand has been developed as part of the project “The Yaroslavl Feast”. Tourists are invited to take a guided tour of the exhibition, a tour around the territory of the Yaroslavl Museum-Preserve, a former monastery (1216), which includes a story about the peculiarities of a monastery feast, a gastronomic tour around the centre of Yaroslavl, which was included on the list of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites in 2005. The programme concludes with a lunch at a restaurant which is comprised of dishes cooked according to the recipes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Thanks to the cooperation with the restaurant, tasty edible gingerbread depicting museum articles has entered the museum souvenir range.
The project had a rare opportunity to participate in the first and second gastronomic forums “Pir na Volge” (“The Feast on the Volga”), August 2016, 2017. The forum united 180 participants who discussed the directions and perspectives of gastronomic tourism development in Russia. The Yaroslavl region was represented by the project “The Yaroslavl Feast” with the treats cooked according to old Yaroslavl recipes.
In 2016 the project acquired new partners. The producers of natural wholefoods and local farms offer their products on the museum territory under the brand “Kremlin-bazar”.
The project was noted by local authorities: it was awarded with a letter of gratitude by the City Council of Yaroslavl, the Yaroslavl Region Governor Award and it became a winner of the contest for the best regional culture brand promotion in the centre of Russia.
The project has several growth points - the gastronomic tour is planned to be expanded by the addition of the traditional monastery food tasting. A project involving a cycle of events about the national dishes of the peoples living in the region is being developed at the moment. Because there is nothing more uniting than a shared table.
We are certain that it is possible to get to know the culture of a region through its cuisine. A traditional recipe can tell more about a city or a region than any guidebook or historical reference.
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