Lucky Days indeed… And although I didn’t know the word for biscuits, it was plain to see that’s what they were. I did know that сахар (sahar) is sugar, making сахарное (saharnoye) one of the adjectivised forms of that (so sugary or sweet)… Meaning печенье (pechenye) can only really translate as biscuits.
Sweet biscuits… or Biscuits… Sweet! as they’ve phrased it.
Incidentally there is no strict word order in Russian. You can quite literally put the words of a sentence in absolutely whatever order you choose. Which would be confusing, except that they have 6 different cases, which change the endings of both nouns and adjectives, to indicate the function they serve within the sentence.
The endings also change depending on the gender of the noun (masculine, feminine or neuter) and whether it is singular or plural… meaning that there are far too many forms of the word sugar, and even more forms of the word sugary depending on the gender/plurality of the thing it refers to…
Which would be confusing… Okay so that is actually very confusing and one of the biggest hurdles when learning the Russian language.
But back to my biscuits… there were two options, one with a picture of what were clearly blackcurrants, and one with these odd looking things. Being a born adventurer, I went for the odd looking things. I thought I vaguely recognised them, but I think I must have mistaken them for lychees… which I hate so it’s a good job I didn’t suss that one out or I’d have gone for the blackcurrant.
The biscuits are lovely. A bit like fig rolls (which I sometimes used to have as a kid but grew out of when I realised what figs did to your digestive system), but more fruity and less… well… figgy. I decided to find out what the strange fruit were.
One of the 6 cases in Russian is Instrumental (using something as an instrument or doing something ‘with’ something or someone). This is also used when describing foods such as soup with tomatoes, burger with ketchup, or sweet biscuits with strange fruit.
С (S) means ‘with’, putting the strange fruit squarely in instrumental case, and I know that in instrumental case the ой (kinda ‘ey’ or ‘oi’ but as though you’ve had a stroke) ending is applied to feminine nouns, which in dictionary form end with an ‘a’ or ‘ya’ sound, so I decided to feed земляника (zemlyanika) into Google translate to see what I was eating.
Turns out the strange fruit are…
Were these really the best strawberries available to photograph for the product packaging to indicate what sort of fruit was contained within?
Did nobody at any point in the packaging design process say… “Those strawberries look a bit manky… People might think the biscuits are lychee flavoured!”…?
When I was staying in the hostel a guy gave me a Russian/English film to watch called Branded. It describes Lenin as the first great marketeer, selling the ideas and products of Communism to the people. His master stroke was making all other brands illegal, a sure fire way to ensure that your products take the number one spot for sales.
Unfortunately the quality sucked… which the film suggests as one of the driving forces behind the fall of Communism and the re-entry of Russia into the free market. The film then goes a bit bonkers as the protagonist ritually slaughters a cow and starts hallucinating peoples brand desires, but it’s an interesting watch if you stumble across it.
By the looks of things the quality of Russian products perhaps hasn’t improved, people with money just buy imported goods (until they all run out and they have to wait for sanctions to be lifted), and although the biscuits are delicious they do also look slightly over-baked…
But even if your biscuits are bobbins, wouldn’t you at least make them look good on the packet? I’m sure the strawberries used for jam-making are far from pretty, but can you imagine any marketing company in the western world trying to suggest that the picture used on the jar should reflect this?
Of course not…
I am genuinely bemused that nobody in the entire process of bringing these biscuits to market has pointed this out… Unless maybe the western image of a bright red perfectly heart-shaped strawberry with evenly spaced pale seeds and no bruising would not be recognised as such by your average Russian biscuit buyer? Or the owner of the company’s son did the packaging and nobody dared suggest that he was a useless lazy arse and should have gone to buy fresh strawberries for the photoshoot rather than use the ones from the bottom of his fridge?
Actually, I’m happy with either of those explanations…. both utterly plausible. My bemusitude (like bemusement but with a bit more edge) has subsided…