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Herring Under Fur Coat

You are right. herrings don’t wear fur coats. However, in a dish of Russian origin in Latvia herrings have been given coats. This is a special type of salad that Latvians learned to love and to make. The story of our herring begins on New Year’s Eve in 1918.

A Moscow bar owner was tired of seeing his patrons all drinking way too much vodka and winding up fighting each other. These fights always wound up destroying a good part of his restaurant. So he decided that he would come up with a special dish that could be eaten while drinking vodka and would soak up some of the consumed alcohol. The creation was a salad with layers of potatoes, pickled herring, beets, and mayonnaise.

However, the true origin of this herring salad dates back to a Swedish recipe from 1864. When the Russians tried it the salad became an instant hit. Herring had always been a favorite among the working poor, the beets added a streak of revolutionary red and the potatoes honored farmers. Russians began referring to the dish as SHUBA – an acronym for a Russian political slogan that condemns chauvinism and just happens to translate to “fur coat”.

 Since mayonnaise is a beloved condiment in Russia it was ideal for this salad. Herring Under a Fur Coat is always eaten during Russian New Year’s Eve celebrations. The herring is placed into a dish, topped with beets and potatoes and looks for all the world like it has been covered by a heavy and bright purple fur coat. Latvians have embraced this salad as well and you can find it in the capital in Riga in practically every cafe, restaurant, and bar. When celebrating at home both Latvians and Russians have their favorite home-style recipes of this salad.

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