“We have a peculiar food, you have to get used to it. The bread, of course, is frozen, as hard as a stone. Even the ax does not take it, it rings and bounces. There are crackers, bagels and tea. After work in the evening you go into the chum as hungry as a wolf. No energy to wait for dinner, although for quick cooking we took a primus stove.
Stroganina helps. You take a big, five or six kilograms, frozen chir or nelma, put it in the oven for a minute so that the skin thaws a little, then you rip it off and start carving it along with a sharp knife. Here is lunch. You take shavings, dip them in salt, drink tea, always strong, black as pitch, eat it with breadcrumbs. Together we eat the whole chir.
Immediately after eating, there is a feeling of emptiness and coldness in the stomach. As if you hadn’t eaten anything. However, soon it is replaced by a feeling of satiety. In the morning, before leaving, you again drink tea with stroganina and breadcrumbs, after which you can work calmly all day, even in a severe frost”.
These first Norilsk recipes, borrowed from the northern peoples’ cuisine, were dictated by hard necessity. Stroganina, yukola, pemmican, fresh venison dishes, bear meat, partridge, fish were not only delicacies, but also medicine. The winterers, having monotonous and low-vitaminated canned food, caught a terrible northern disease – scurvy, so there was no chance to quibble about tastes.
The first public catering appeared in Norilsk in 1939: two canteens with buffets were operating at them.
In the 1940s, a buffet was opened at the House of Engineering and Technical Workers – with white tablecloths, pastries and soft drinks.
According to the first Norilsk residents’ memoirs, the very first restaurant in the city appeared in 1948. During the day, that institution worked as a dining room, and from six in the evening until two in the morning – as a restaurant. Apparently, that nameless catering point was located in a hotel on Octyabrskaya street, the building of which was built right in 1947.
And finally, in February 1954, the first real restaurant was opened: on the first floor of a residential building on Stalin avenue.
Here is how the Taimyr restaurant was described by the city press:
“Curtains, chandeliers, sideboards, chairs covered with covers, paintings in carved frames, tables with snow-white tablecloths – all this gives the restaurant a beautiful look. The menu here is varied. There are more than 17 names of cold appetizers alone”.
Taimyr was the largest and most prestigious restaurant in the city. And its specialties were also from local polar products: smoked fish of northern breeds, partridge de volley, partridge broth a la Norilsk, reindeer barbecue, venison in the northern style, beef steak, pate from venison, game julienne… In 1969, the Norilsk people even conquered Moscow with northern cuisine and polar exotics: the Taimyr restaurant won a prize at the VDNKh.
In the History Spot photo project previous publication, we told about one of the most charismatic Norilsk combine directors Johnson Hagazheyev.
Text: Svetlana Ferapontova, Photo: Nornickel Polar Branch archive