Posts tagged ‘Polina Zhemchuzhina’

April 3, 2020

Lockdown Cooking: 3 Mimosa Salad

Today I return to the former Soviet Union whose population knew a thing or two about stretching out limited stocks of food. Anyone who ever visited the USSR will be familiar with shops filled with not a lot except tinned fish and might have gone away with the idea the people just loved the stuff. Not much truth in that, they were prepared to queue for hours to get rare fresh fish.

In the battle to feed its vast empire during WW2 a woman was recruited to oversee this daunting task. She was Polina Zhemchuzhina and she shook up the whole fishing and processing business. She became the People’s Commissar for Fisheries and introduced large-scale canning factories and re-organised fish processing to ‘ramp up’, as today’s parlance goes, output of tinned fish right across the country.

Tinned fish had been around for years but the preference was for fresh so to persuade people to buy the canned kind the Central Committee of the Communist Party came up with a tale that pearl smugglers hid jewellery in tins of fish. To prove the point a can was opened in public and to everyone’s amazement, other than those government officials behind the scam, a pearl necklace was produced out of it. They couldn’t keep cans of fish on the shelves such was the clamour for the stuff. Polina and the Fish Factory was the forerunner of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with pearls in place of Charlie Bucket’s golden ticket, only there were no pearls.

Stalin was a hard man to please and Polina was condemned as an enemy of the people and thrown into a labour camp for five years – don’t know why but not for her tinned fish scheme surely. She was released. Still a Stalinist.

Stalinism on a plate


Mimosa Salad

Serves 4
4-5 eggs, hardboiled and shelled and grated
1-2 carrot, boiled till soft, grated
1 small onion, grated and blanched in boiling water
400g tinned fish, drained and broken up with fork
150g mayonnaise
1 apple, grated
100g cheese, grated
100g butter, frozen then grated

Build up salad in layers: fish, mayonnaise, onion, egg, mayonnaise, fish, mayonnaise, onion, egg, mayonnaise, carrot, mayonnaise, egg.
If using apple, cheese and butter add to layers.

The whites and yolks of the eggs should be separately grated, but life’s too short. The yellow yolk provides the colour of the mimosa flower.

Ref: CCR Cook Book; Olga and Pavel Syutkin.