About the food of Belarus

This week is going to be interesting. Simply put, my husband hates mushrooms, rye bread, sour cream, beets, and cabbage… which puts his taste buds in direct opposition to the lovely people of Belarus.

Not one to be beat down by pickiness, I’ve resolved myself to be the cheerful, but broken record:

“Honey, if an entire country eats it, then it can’t be that bad!”

And I’m going to ask (beg) him to eat his entire meal.

We’ll see.

Located in eastern Europe, Belarusian culture blends Russian, Ukranian, Lithuanian, Tartar, and Polish traditions with its own.

The typical Belarusian table is hearty. Potatoes are known as the “bread” of this people. Rumor has it, there are even restaurants that dedicate their entire menu to the potato. They put spuds in anything, from pancakes, dumplings, and soups, to pies, casseroles and salads. In the home, too, families are happy to eat potatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (Source: Please to the Table).

This is not to say they don’t eat bread, too. They do. In fact, bread holds a special place in all Slavic culture. “Bread and Salt Ceremonies” are even held to honor special guests. In such a ceremony, a fresh loaf of bread is presented to the guest, cradled in a beautiful embroidered towel. Salt is placed on top of the loaf, or embedded into the top of the crust. This and most breads are rye because the growing season is too short and rainy for growing wheat.

Maybe I can honor Keith with a Bread and Salt Ceremony. That might get him to eat his dinner.

The cold, rainy climate impacts the Belorussian diet beyond bread. The Belorussian table is restricted by what can mature in the short summers, or survive the cold winters. The table is usually laden with root vegetables such as turnips, carrots, rutabagas, beets, and – of course – potatoes.

When salads are served, they are made with cabbage, beets, cucumbers and/or radishes.

Mushroom picking is something of a national phenomenon in the fall. Here’s a link to a photo of Honey Mushrooms on their National web site. Beautiful! Throughout Belarus, fresh and dried mushrooms are used in soups, sauces, and fillings.

The people of Belarus enjoy a variety of meat, including pork, chicken, freshwater fish (perch, trout, and carp), and beef. Seasonings are typical of eastern Europe and include garlic, onion, vinegar, parsley, dill, and caraway.

Most cooking is done with lard, however they make up for it with “lighter” desserts. Indeed, fresh berries are popular, especially strawberries, bilberries (like a softer, juicier blueberry), and cranberries cooked simply with sugar, cornstarch, and water. The berries can also be eaten with cakes and ice cream for those who prefer a heavier dessert course.

Don’t tell my husband about the dessert, though. He loves fresh berries and this might give him reason to skimp on his meal portions.

As for drinks? A whole book could be devoted to their vodkas, fermented rye bread drink (kvass), teas, coffees, birch juice, and sour milk. The Belarus have a whole word of beverages we don’t know anything about here in the west!


  1. kc192 says

    Very excited to see what your menu will look like this week! Spent 2 yrs in Russia and have a special place in my heart for all slavic things. To give your husband a little hope, I don’t love beets and wouldn’t touch cabbage (prepared *any* way) with a 10 foot pole. First time someone put a bowl of borcht in front of me I was like, “you’ve got to be kidding me.” YUM. Turns out it’s one of my favorite foods and had one of my russian friends teach me to make it!

    • Thanks for the encouragement..I’m hoping he has a reaction like yours… stranger things have been known to happen 🙂

  2. mom says

    We grew up on sour cream, beets, cabbage – cooked all kinds of different ways, cukes and tons of radishes – we even grew radishes,,,and potatoes galore – yup! for breakfast dinner and supper and even in between. Hungarian influence. Oh! and don’t forget the pickled pig’s feet !

    • I have a faint memory of you trying to serve pickled pigs feet once when I was a kid. If I remember correctly it didn’t go over well?

  3. Jessica Bennett says

    I love the Please to the Table cookbook (and the title too). Can’t wait to see what you come up with and how your husband does.

  4. I once went to a Slavic Festival here in Sacramento and there were representatives from the various Slavic Embassies. I sat next to a man from the Belarus Embassy, he’d flown out from Washington, DC, and learned a lot. For example, Belarus means “White Russia.” There are a lot of children who are adopted from Belarus and this man’s job was to make sure they’re doing okay. He informed me, they may be Americans but they’ll always be Belarussians. It was fascinating.

    P.S. I love beets and mushrooms.

  5. I love what you are doing, the details that you go in to are great, and beautiful photos to accompany. I wouldn’t have thought it was to be a cuisine that I would normally go for. But your menu sounds tasy!

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