There’s a list of items that are strongly associated with the Soviet era, like the film “Irony of Fate” and Olivje salad on New Years eve, Soviet animated cartoons like “Nu, Pogodi” or Crocodile Gena and Cheburashka. As for food and drinks, it’s worth mentioning Soviet Champagne, Vodka Stolichnaya, Port 777, Sitro Buratino, Moskovskaya and Doctorskaya sausages and – last but not least – Sgushyonka (condensed milk).
SGUSHYONKA – you won’t find a single person on the post-soviet territory who wouldn’t know what it is or how does it look like. Thanks to its legendary Soviet design – a tin with a blue and white label – it’s recognizable up to nowadays, as the design hasn’t changed since then.
Sguschyonka – the tastiest of all the icons
For several reasons, Condensed Milk was one of the favorite deserts in Soviet Era. Back then, it was almost impossible to buy good sweeties in stores and almost all the confectionary was brought from Moscow to the regions by parents or relatives, but this didn’t happen too often. The only thing that was always available was Sgushyonka. Everyone just loved Sgushyonka! There were dozens of desserts with it. Some people put it on bread or cookies, some used it as cream for cake, some added it to tea or coffee instead of sugar, but mostly it was eaten straight from the tin.
Another peculiarity was that when you started eating Condensed Milk you just couldn’t stop until you would have eaten it all up to the end. Sgushyonka was the favorite sweetie of nearly all Soviet children. When going to pioneer camps, there wasn’t any child without a tin of condensed milk. In soviet times, condensed milk was of a very good quality, with a high percentage of calcium and protein, therefore very good for a childrens health. As everybody knows, the color of a high quality condensed Milk should be white with a cream shadow, but not yellow or light brown.
Every soviet family had storage of Sgushyonka, like 10 up to 40 tins, because in Soviet times you never knew whether next time it would be in the store or not. As nearly all the products were a so-called deficit, you could live a month without a sausage or coffee (or Sgushyonka!) if you didn’t buy it in advance. Nevertheless, the condensed milk was in every soviet home; it was impossible to imagine an evening tea without it. And one thing is sure: if there was a light in the window in the middle of the night, there was some Soviet kid eating condensed milk.
Sguschyonka – a few words on history
Condensed Milk is really a unique product. Made first by the French confectioner Apper, it became really famous when in 1849 the American businessman Gale Borden invented a device to produce Condensed Milk. In spite of the fact that it was invented abroad, it later gained huge popularity in the Soviet Union where it was considered a purely Soviet product. No one paid attention to or simply didn’t know about its origin. Just like for the rest of things in the Soviet Union. It was all Soviet!
Sgushyonka was great, yet, there was something that could really blow your mind: boiled or caramelized condensed milk!!! Now that was really magnificent. It was so tasty, so you couldn’t stop eating it, no matter how much tins of it you already had. Caramelized Condensed milk has brown or caramel color, is very dense and there were basically two ways to get it: first one is to buy it, which was almost impossible, but the second and the most common way was to boil a tin of a simple Condensed Milk for four or five hours. Sounds crazy? Not at all!
Every person from the Soviet era boiled a condensed milk, that’s for sure. Ask and you’ll get dozens of stories about the process. If everything went well you’d get a tin of the most delicious stuff ever, but if something went wrong, you’d get condensed milk trickle down from the ceiling. Yes, it can blow up, just in the middle of boiling process! It was a bit scary, disappointing, but still a lot of fun. Imagine all the kitchen soiled with…a half-caramelized Condensed milk!!! In some minutes all your friends were at your place helping you clean that tasty plaque! One of the delicious desserts ever, and mine, without an exception, was a waffle cake with a boiled condensed milk. I was buying waffle shortcakes and a tin of a condensed milk. I boiled it and put it on the shortcakes. If there’s a person who tells you he or she was born USSR and doesn’t know what a waffle shortcakes with a boiled condensed milk is – don’t trust him!!!
Looking back, the Soviet epoch was somehow an age of the understatement with dictatorship and repressions. Yet for many it was a light and easy period of time. My childhood was a Soviet one and I don’t regret a single minute about it. The atmosphere of kindness and equality was spread all over and everyone was happy about it. We had the same toys, the same clothes, the same Sgushyonka in the refrigerator, but we were happy. A tin of a boiled condensed could make a child so happy and this happiness was a sincere one. If you’d ask me to speak about something valuable that marks the Ukrainian independence era, but at the same time as ordinary and simple as the Condensed Milk… well, it would take me a long time to answer.