Eating: an issue of class?

Eating: an issue of class?

Analysts of Russian eating habits have observed some unexpected trends.

Published: December 19, 2012 (Issue # 1740)

According to official statistics on food consumption in Russia by various social groups, the pattern that emerges is a surprising one. Polls indicate that while Russians with more modest incomes have improved the quality of their diet and begun to show a greater interest in consuming organic products, their richer compatriots have remained carefree about their culinary habits.

“A typical Russian client is very different from the European visitors to our clinic, in the sense that they refuse to compromise any bad habits or lifestyle that they have; instead, they come to us, demand the most expensive services, and go back home to continue ruining their health,” said the chief doctor of one leading European health and beauty center who asked to remain anonymous. “One of our tasks, as we see it, is to help our clients to avoid our services for as long as possible — through maintaining a healthy diet and exercise.”

It is with such potential clients in mind that the Russian company Eat2fit, conceived by the dietician Yelena Grigorieva and chef Kirill Muzychenko, has introduced the first tailor-made healthy catering service in St. Petersburg. The duo has developed ten sets of “rations,” ranging from XS, a 900-calorie diet, to XXXL, a 4,500-calorie intake every day.

“The concept of Eat2fit is rooted in the philosophy of services that are already established in Europe,” said Darya Kratnova, a spokeswoman for Eat2fit. “Despite the clear Western origin of the service, all programs have been developed with close consideration for local produce and eating habits. There is a program for vegetarians and diets for pregnant or breastfeeding women.”

The ultimate goal of Eat2fit is to help clients return to a healthier and balanced diet while not exhausting the body’s resources, which is often the case with fashionable diets, said Grigorieva. “The body needs to lose fat, not muscles or water,” she said. “The task is not to stop eating but to consume what is really good for you.”

According to Svetlana Mishkina, who co-authored the “Farewell to Poverty” report, food consumption among the poorest Russians will soon reach the level of those who are better off, with the “poorest” defined as those earning from $2 to $10 per day. Mishkina, whose comment appeared in the national business daily newspaper Vedomosti, observed that in 2000, people in that group consumed an average of 1,525 calories per day. They now ingest 2,100 calories. The wide gap that once existed between rich and poor Russians in the consumption of protein, vegetables, fruits and berries has been rapidly shrinking during the past 10 years, the expert said.

Official statistics indicate that Russia’s poorest spend 46 percent of their earnings on food, while the richest spend only 18 percent on it.

Ferran Adria, the world-renowned Catalan chef whose revolutionary approach to cooking gained his restaurant El Bulli on the Costa Brava the title of the most sought-after restaurant on the planet, said that dynamic modern lifestyles are throwing new challenges to chefs and food producers.

“On the one hand, we all want our meals to be cooked fast; unlike in the 19th century, most women are now employed full-time and do not feel like spending hours and hours in the kitchen,” he said. “On the other hand, the general awareness of organic produce and healthy foods is noticeable. Reconciling these goals and making a fast and healthy meal a reality is one of the major challenges for us. Indeed, organic ingredients are not accessible for everyone. Still, it is possible to create new opportunities for local farmers worldwide.”

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