Anyone in a megalopolis knows what is like to rush about and commute for hours each day, and anyone constantly on the run knows the hunger caused by this. There is no time to stop and eat. On average a roast pig probably has more stuffed in its mouth than a New Yorker, Londoner, or Tokyoite. Resultantly fast food and kiosks have become the lifeblood of these people on the run. In New York they ‘grab a slice’, Londoners have Cornish Pasties, and in Tokyo they have steam buns and sushi galore. These metro foods are often eaten out of desperation, but can also be an indulgence.
In Moscow I have been starved and enticed into a variety of metro fare. Most of these are high energy and low cost or quality. The first fad I fell into was grabbing a few Sloika Pies on my way to work in the morning. These pies range from ground meats and sausages to creamy cheese and fruits. Stopping for these pies reminds me of indulging at the patisseries in France sans the silky French names, and the smiley Frogs in white hats spattered with flour. Lets just say the quality and ambience isn’t there.
Next in line was the shawarma. Similar to the shawarma we get back in Canada from late night Lebanese joints like ‘Mr. Shawarma and Shawarma Kingdom’ (result of English as a second language I am sure) They wrap up spiced chicken that has been marinating in its owns juices with cabbage, tomatoes, and cucumbers and give it some gusto with garlic mayo and chili sauce. I started eating these late night wraps because it was one of the only things I could say and at 1:30am getting off the Metro I couldn’t ask for anything more. I have managed to cut down but still love having shawarma at least once a week. The best part of Moscow shawarma is that it is sealed on both ends for convenience and they put a dollop of garlic mayo on the top so that your first few bites that are tortilla heavy are just as good or better than the ones that come in the middle. This technique needs to cross borders!
One that I was hesitant to try, but I feel could be wildly popular back home is Kartoshka (Potato). Here you can have a foil wrapped potato pulled out of the oven, have butter and cheese worked into its whites and then adorn it with your choice of toppings. Toppings range from sausage and cheese, shrimp, feta cheese, and move into crispy onion bits, and things I just point at and hope they taste good. Luckily they nearly always do. The point and pray is a strategy I have mastered.
Now here comes my new favorite, a little place called Beard Papa’s. Not exclusively Russian, but exclusively wonderful. Beard Papa is a pipe-smoking sailor that happens to have an expert hand with jumbo cream puffs. As soon as you get upwind of the store you smell the sweet fresh baked scents of tender puff pastry. Once inside you choose if you want chocolate, vanilla, berry, or green tea cream piped into your fist-sized puff. I went with green tea; it is a fix I have been deprived of for months now. I was more than fixed. In a hurry I mowed into my giant creamy heaven as I walked. I had green cream in and around my mouth and icing sugar all over my pea coat like powder burns from a shotgun. I advise you to indulge at Beard Papa’s but to take your time eating your dream cloud and pairing it with a nice cappuccino before you rush off.
Although I am often cursing the fact that I have no time for a real meal, and condemned by other teachers for eating these foods I am enjoying the new tastes on the go. Next up: corn and the cob, and a pint.