Zakuski (zah-koosh-key) is the Russian word for HORS D’OEUVRE. The custom of serving zakuski probably originated in country houses on vast estates. Guests, who had travelled over long distances and rough roads, often in inclement weather, would be offered light dishes to refresh them while they waited for other guests to arrive. As this custom increased in popularity, affluent households would set aside a room, adjacent to the dining-rqom, for the specific purpose of serving zakuski. The dishes became increasingly lavish and varied, and the Russians derived considerable amusement from the fact that foreign guests would frequently mistake the zakuski for the main meal and eat so much that they would be unable to consume the dinner that followed.
Nowadays no Russian meal begins without zakuski and vodka. (Vodka is traditionally served in small glasses as it is meant to be drunk in one gulp, followed by some of the zakuski.) If the main course is to be fish, the zakuski will generally be of meat and vice versa. Zakuski may consist of all or a combina-tion of the following items: caviar, blinis, pate, smoked sausage, smoked salmon, smoked cod’s roe, salted herring, an-chovies, sardines, salami, cold meats, potatoes boiled with dill, hard-boiled eggs, marinated mushrooms, tomatoes, cucumbers and sour cream, radishes and various sauces, and black, brown and grey bread.