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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Is It a Glacial Formation Or Is It a Baked Good?

What is the hugest sin you can commit in a Russian household? You're probably thinking along the lurid lines of patricide or stealing from the secret cache in the sock drawer, but no -- those are not the worst things you, as a guest, can do. The very worst thing is, in your eagerness to clear the dinner table, to throw away a seemingly unwanted crust of bread that, in your eyes, has outlived its usefulness.


What are you doing? your horrified hosts will ask, as you edge the slice in question away from the mouth of the garbage pail and pretend that you thought it was actually the bread box.


You make a few more feeble attempts to assist in the cleaning up, but it's clear they think you've already done quite enough.


A few weeks later, when everything's died down and you've been invited back over for tea, your friends will set out a glass dish of snacks, and hey! There's your piece of bread! It's still there! And it's hard as a rock! For penance, you eat it. See, they tell you. You should never throw away good bread.


This is, of course, in principle, a very admirable thing. Russians know the value of food, and they don't like to waste it. Bread in particular evokes strong sentiment, as it basically has throughout the course of history. So it's better not to throw it away. Or if you do, make sure nobody sees you.


All this means a number of things to you as a human being. One, you will find yourself eating more bread than you perhaps ever have in your life, just so you can get to the end of the loaf before it petrifies or gets covered with mold. Soon you will start to feel funny at meals if you're not clutching at a slice with your free hand, security-blanket style.


Eventually, you will no doubt learn the fine art of making sukhari, those stale toasted delights with the indefinite shelf life. Put them out with a saucer of jam and, voila -- Instant Tea Party! And if you soak them in your tea long enough, you might actually be able to gnaw your way through one.


This preponderance of sukhari has always seemed confusing, because it doesn't seem to go hand in hand with a national love for texture.


A Russian will screech with dismay when they catch you making cucumber slices more than a millimeter thick, because it's going to make the salad too crunchy, but they'll happily chew on dry bread slabs for hours without a thought for their dental safety.


Even so, the laws of physics dictate that they'll never be able to consume them as quickly as a new batch gets made.


Soon their shelves will be flooded with rock-hard toast, and they still won't throw it away. Or if they do, they definitely won't let you catch them doing it.