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and barley, with the addition of some turnips and radishes, the only vegetables growing at Berezov, constitute nearly the whole of their culinary resources.
In the preparation of their Lenten dishes the fat of fish is used, and the smell of this accessory is unbearable. Every Russian house, during Lent, is filled with the odour. Linseed and hemp-seed oils, disagreeable as their smell is, are, in comparison with the strong rancid stench of fish, absolute perfume. The slush is obtained by frying the entrails of the richer species of fish in the oven.
When the fat has been thus extracted, the more solid portions of the fish are packed in casks, and preserved under the name of warki. The stench from the warki is even more repulsive than that of the fat; yet the Siberians are extremely fond of it.
Oil of cedar-nuts is sometimes imported from Tobolsk ; but as the article is reckoned a dainty, it makes its appearance only at the tables of the rich, and even then only on the occasion of great festivities.
Berezov, indeed, is not unprovided with a considerable quantity of vegetable oil, though
it is never used for human food, and the inhabitants do not believe that it can be made available for such a purpose. They employ it solely for the lamps before the images of their saints.
Among the most exquisite dainties of the table on fast days, may be reckoned the berries, golubitza and brusnitza. They are kept throughout the winter in a frozen state, and dissolved only when wanted for use. Syrups, refreshing juices, and various kinds of sweetmeats are made of them. They are also introduced into the pirog cakes, and are even very good in their natural state. The common, or every-day pirog, used on fast days, is most frequently perpared from turnip; it is served at table quite hot, immersed in the fat of fish. It cannot be called a great dainty, but it is more palatable than many other Lenten dishes.
The Berezovians are passionately fond of raw fish. In winter they eat it in its congealed state, cut into small thin slices. They eat it cold, before it is freed from frost. Sometimes the slices are peppered, but they are never salted ; and this horrid mess is greedily swallowed. As soon as the dish is brought in, every one
pounces upon it, and helps himself to some slices, which he instantly devours. While the parties are thus regaling themselves, the hostess hastens to the pantry to fetch another dishful of the fish, and it is renewed again and again before all are satisfied. Fresh fish, eaten as it is taken from the river, is esteemed a great delicacy in summer. Indeed, so much and so universally is it prized, that when the fishermen are seen drawing their nets from the river, people of all kinds will flock to the spot, and as the fish are tossed out on the shore, join in the common feast.
Persons composing a fishing party, are all provided with knives, and the instant that the net is drawn up, they spring upon it; and every one selecting the fish he considers best, scrapes off the scales, and swallows it piece-meal, not only while the fish is yet alive, but actually quivering with pain. This banquet is discussed without either salt or bread.
I had frequent opportunities of witnessing these scenes, and, seeing how much all the inhabitants relished this sort of food, I began
at last to think that the aversion I felt to it, was but a prejudice, contracted by my education, and consequently I resolved to conquer it. With all the courage I could muster, I took up some fragments of fish, yet quivering with life; but, alas ! all my attempts to swallow them were vain. Chew them as I might, they would not go down, and I was obliged, in defiance of my strongest determination, to spit them out.
I was more successful in an experiment on a frozen fish, of which I was able to swallow a few slices; and, though I cannot boast that I relished them much, or should choose it for my daily food, I at least succeeded in conquering 'my repugnance to it, so that I may absolutely aver, that, had it not been for the total absence of salt; and for the blood streaming from the fish while chewed, when it begins to thaw, and above all, for the idea, ever present to my mind, that I was actually eating raw fish, I should almost have attributed to it a delicate flavour. This I can affirm on the authority of the Berezovians themselves, particularly those
who are in the habit of fishing in the Oby Sea, where they spend several months yearly, that raw fish is not only their daily food, but is considered by them the most wholesome and most palatable, and, on the other hand, they declare that boiled fish soon palls, and becomes distasteful to the stomach. The fishing parties, consequently, subsist almost entirely on raw fish, biscuits, and tea.
The Berezovians also consider raw fish to be the most efficacious means of curing chronic diseases, and in cases of any one suffering from them a long time, losing strength and gradually declining, and the malady baffling all medical care, the patient is usually taken on the seashore, and there fed on raw fish, and frequently brought home in perfect health. I have myself seen an invalid, whose recovery had been despaired of, and who was given up by medical men ; but who, after sojourning for several months on the sea-coast, and using the raw fish diet, had completely recovered his health.
Whether it be owing to climate, or local necessities, or to continual intercourse with the