How to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth in Russian
11 July, 2017
I’m going to begin this post with another confession. In my last post, I admitted that I love marshrutkas, and in this one I’m going to come clean once again: I am a сладкоежка. Whereas in English we use the more figurative construction of “I have a sweet tooth,” the Russians express the concept more literally: if you like sweets, it’s not just your tooth that’s sweet, it’s all of you. You are a person who eats the sweets, and often. For some reason, my sweet tooth comes out in full force in Russia, and part of this is due to the fact that Russian candy stores are truly magical. In the US, we mostly buy candy in the grocery store, or occasionally in special candy stores that allow us to fill bags ourselves out of bulk bins. But Russians still often go to the кондитерская, a candy lover’s paradise, where all the walls are lined with clear shelves boasting piles of invidiually wrapped bright truffles and candies of which there are likely 50 different varieties. Unlike in the US, you cannot simply take what you wish and then purchase your candies at the counter. You must order the candies from the Russian keeper of the candies, aka salesperson. For me, this can sometimes be tricky— how can I ask what all the different flavors are? What are all these mysterious Russian fillings? How can I properly express how many candies I want? And most importantly: where can I find them? I set off to do some research, and below will attempt to guide all my fellow сладкоежки through the ins and outs of #russiancandylife.
Where Can I Find a кондитерская?
The кондитерская I chose to visit is a unique one. Unlike most traditional candy stores, which sell a variety of brands in absurdly large quantities, this кондитерская is located on the first floor of the ultra-hip creative space “Голицын Лофт,” and only sells candy, mostly chocolate, produced in a town called Чебоскара, not far from Казан, which is about 1,500 kilometers southeast of Petersburg. I spoke with a very nice saleslady at the кондитерская (for saleslady, see above picture), and aggressively encouraged her to explain how you might correctly speak about candy in Russian. Below are a few helpful phrases.
1. Какие у вас самые вкусные шоколадки?
If you’re as indecisive as I am, you’ll need some help choosing between the different kinds of candy. In this case, you can use the above phrase, meaning, “Which are your tastiest chocolates?” If your salesperson is as nice as mine was, he/she will point you in the right direction—in this case, she recommended a candy that looks like a tiny mushroom. I enlisted the help of Liden & Denz student Kevin for a taste test. His reaction was nondescript: he neither loved nor hated the tiny mushroom, but I doubt he’ll order it again.
2. Начинка (какая начинка? с чем эти конфеты? что внутри?)
Начинка = filling, and is a very important word to know when trying to pick the perfect truffle, especially if you have an allergy. There are a few different ways you can find out what kind of candy you’re about to purchase, all of which are basically synonyms. The first one, какая начинка, literally means, “what’s the filling,” the second, с чем эти конфеты, means “what is this candy made of,” and что внутри, perhaps the simplest, means “what’s inside.” Choose your favorite and ask away. After also trying a mushroom candy, I had a similar reaction to Kevin’s: average. The filling, we think, was made of some sort of sweet cheese. In this picture above, I prepare to eat and subsequently begin to eat said truffle.
3. Можно, пожалуйста, одну штуку, 2-4
штуки, 5+ штук OR Можно мне килограмм конфет?
Once you have determined which candies you want, you need to know how to ask for a certain quantity. There are two ways to do this, and it all depends, really, on what kind of candies you want, and how many you want to buy. If you’re only looking to buy one, you can ask for одну штуку (one piece, accusative case), for more, 2-4 штуки (2-4 pieces, genitive singular) or 5+ штук (5 or more, genitive plural). If you’re buying a hefty amount of candy, it’s probably best to ask by weight, instead of ordering thirty kilograms and invoking the wrath of the salesperson. Here you can use the construction, Можно мне килограмм (or however much candy you want) конфет?
Now get out there and start supporting your local кондитерская! Side note: the word кондитерская really refers to any place where sweet things are sold, including pastries, cookies, and often times coffee and tea. Make sure you find a кондитерская that only sells candy if you’re craving some Russian chocolates.
Emily, studying Russian at Liden & Denz St. Petersburg