Let me tell you a fun story that I heard today. I have no facts to support it, but somehow I think that it's entirely believable. This is the story of how the potato came to Russia. For all of you who have been to Russia, it's hard to imagine that the potato hasn't always been a part of Russian cuisine. Neither have tomatoes or sunflower oil. Honestly, what did they eat before that?

This all start's with Pushkin's great-grandfather -- Abram Petrovich Gannibal. Just a reminder to all you who don't study Russian literature, Pushkin is the Russian Shakespeare. His great-grandfather was captured as a boy in Africa, and was given to Tsar Peter I as a curiosity. Young Abram was then raised with the tsar's son. Later he went on to become a major-general and was overall successful. He also, apparently, was quite the troublemaker. As a youth he was sent to Paris to continue his education. While there he happened to develop a relationship with a certain count's wife, and, well, let's just say that they really hit it off. So much so that she got pregnant. Unfortunately for both of them, it was very obvious that the father was not her husband. Abram dueled with the count and caused quite the international scandal. He was promptly returned to Moscow, much to the disappointment of his godfather Peter I.

Now, back to potatoes.

After one of his travels, Abram brought back that beloved vegetable known as the potato. He wanted it to be spread all over Russia, but his first attempts were complete failures. The farmers didn't want his stupid potatoes because they were completely satisfied eating cabbage, meat, kasha, and whatever else they had at this time. Perhaps part of the failure to impress the peasants was due to the fact that they didn't explain at first that the good stuff grows UNDER the ground.

Well, Abram was a хитрый man, and he clearly had a good understanding of the Russian mentality. He took his potatoes and planted them in several flower beds, and then he posted signs saying that anyone caught stealing them would be beheaded. They were all gone in a matter of days.

Next he planted potatoes in a vast field. He appointed a guard to watch the field, and made it known that all trespassers would be shot. Then he instructed the guard to fire off a few shots every evening, and then go home. Once again, all of the potato plants were quickly stolen, and potatoes began showing up all over Russia.

Now you will find potatoes at every single meal, and in almost every single dish.


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