It’s an unusual way of showing solidarity, but the veto on Russian salad is something that began in Zaragoza and has now spread to Malaga city. It started last week, when the Mesón Martín restaurant changed its ‘ensaladilla rusa’ to ‘ensaladilla Kiev’ and added the Ukraine flag beside it on the menu. Other establishments are now calling it Ukrainian salad.
One restaurant held a survey on what to rename the dish. “I hated calling it Russian salad,” says Jacobo Vázquez, who owns La Casería in Avda Ángel Caffarena, “but couldn’t decide what to call it instead”. So he posed the question on social media and the answer was ‘Olivier’, so that’s what it is now called on his menu. “If they want to eat Russian salad, they can do it in Russia,” he says.
Another place which is reprinting its menu, and where Russian salad is one of the most popular dishes, is El Balneario at Los Baños del Carmen. José Luis Ramos, one of the owners, says they had no hesitation in renaming the dish after the Ukrainian city of Kyiv.
As many of these restaurateurs are keen to point out, ‘ensaladilla rusa’ isn’t even Russian, nor was it actually invented by the Belgian chef Lucien Olivier, as some believe. It is true that he created an irresistible salad of vegetables, game, seafood and a secret sauce for the Hermitage restaurant in Moscow, but the first recipe for Russian salad actually appeared in ‘The Modern Cook’, written in the 19th century by Italian-British chef Charles Elmé Francatelli, who was the head chef in the kitchens of Queen Victoria.
At Gutiérrez Puerto in Malaga port, they never intended to become famous for their ‘ensaladilla ucraniana’, but curiously it was a Russian who came up with the idea and made it popular. Staff there say that a few days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a Russian man stopped off to enjoy a beer and a tapa on their terrace. “He said he was very upset about the situation, and would we mind changing the name ‘Ensaladilla rusa’ on his bill to ‘Ensaladilla ucraniana’, because he wanted to photograph it and post it on social media as a gesture of support,” they say. Since then, others have come and requested the same.
This idea of boycotting the names of dishes also occurred during the Iraq war, when the USA decided to change the name ‘French fries’ because the French government had opposed the intervention in 2003, so they became ‘Freedom fries’ instead. That veto lasted while Saddam Hussein was in power. Let’s hope the conflict which has led to the renaming of these ‘ensaladillas’ lasts for even less time than the potatoes.
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