The Russian love for kasha

The Russian love for kasha
14 December 2020

The word ‘kasha’ is often translated simply as ‘porridge’, and this is what you might imagine when you hear it, especially if you’re British:

But what does the word ‘kasha’ actually refer to?

Actually, there are several types of kasha in Russia. The proper name for porridge as we know it is ‘каша овсяная’ – this is oats boiled in milk or water. But there’s also:

Каша гречневая – buckwheat boiled in milk/water

Каша пшённая – boiled millet 

Каша манная – boiled semolina

Каша перловая – boiled pearl barley

Каша рисовая – rice porridge/cream of rice

Kasha has long been an absolute staple of Russian cuisine. In old times, kasha was present at weddings, funerals, and any other important ceremonies, and eaten by both the rich and the poor. There’s this one phrase:

“Каша — мать наша”

This says a lot about how dear kasha is for Russians, especially if you think about the fact that Russia itself is personified as ‘Мать-Россия’ (Mother Russia). 

Каша – мать.

И Россия – мать.

Следовательно, каша – Россия.

This is further reflected in the amount of idioms based around kasha…

Мало каши ел

This is my favourite so I’ve put it first. It is used when someone is basically not up to the task. Maybe they are too weak, don’t have the experience, or maybe they just didn’t eat enough kasha.

Заварить кашу

This means to stir up trouble deliberately, or to accidentally cause a difficult situation.

Расхлёбывать кашу

To clear up the mess, to face the music. You can also say “Сам заварил кашу, сам и расхлёбывай” (you’ve made your bed, now lie in it).

С ним каши не сваришь

When it’s literally impossible to get along with someone. This phrase derives from an old custom according to which two enemies would boil kasha and eat it together as a means of finding peace with each other.

У тебя каша в голове

You aren’t thinking straight, or something’s messing with your head so that you can’t function properly. Yes, kasha can be in other places, not just in your tummy!

У него каша во рту

Someone is mumbling and nobody can understand what he’s saying.

Кашу маслом не испортишь

This literally means ‘you can’t spoil porridge with butter’. There’s never too much of a good thing!

Его сапоги каши просят

When someone’s boots are falling apart and really need fixing, they’re ‘asking for kasha’.

And indeed, all that reading about food has probably made you hungry, so you’re likely also asking for kasha now. Not to worry – Russian people are hospitable; so if you go to Russia, you are bound to be given kasha at some point. There are also numerous recipes to be found online if you google ‘Russian kasha recipes’. Приятного аппетита!

This article was brought to you by Olivia, a current student at Liden & Denz Moscow

Posted by Olivia Wright

Hi, I'm Olivia and I'm currently studying German and Russian at the University of Cambridge in the UK. I was introduced properly to Russia and its culture two years ago, when I started learning Russian from scratch, and am now a big fan!

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