The Sylvester salad index

The Russian Orthodox church is a Julian-calendar holdout, and the big winter holiday in Russia is still the New Year rather than Christmas. Less than a week to go until the feast of sweet champagne, salami and salad. One particularly popular variety of New Year salad is known as Olivier (Lucien, not Laurence) although it probably has little to do with the French culinaran’s invention.

The Russian agribusiness portal has compared the price of ingredients for a family-sized serving of Olivier in various Russian regions. The now have data for December 2013, 2014, and 2015. There is an apparent inconsistency between the 2014 and 2013 sets: averages prices across regions were reported in 2014 and averages for the regions’ principal cities, in 2013. I don’t think this discrepancy greatly exaggerates the extent of year-over-year price growth.

A quick look at the numbers shows that the median (averages and medians are conveniently close to each other for this set) increase in the price of ingredients in 2015 was 16%, while the CPI looks set to grow by about 13% during 2015. More strikingly, ignoring the inconsistency noted above, the Olivier salad became 29% more expensive to make during 2014. That’s a cumulative annual growth rate of 22% for 2013-15, and a total increase of 49%: almost a half in just two years.


  1. Heh! My wife makes a mountain of salad Olivier each New Year (although this year it was for Gregorian Christmas) – she tells me because tradition demands somebody must faceplant into a bowl of it at some point over the course of the festivities.

    • No wedding feast used to be complete without one of the guests doing just that.

      But how I used to love that salad when I was 10. We called it simply “winter salad” at home and the recipe was slightly different from the canon, but close.

      • Oh gawd. There are several sure-fire ways to start an argument among Russians, asking a group of them to advise the “proper” way of making salad Olivier is one of them. 🙂

        • I am tolerant of all recipes as long as they call for a little bit of apples. An apple-free Olivier borders on heresy. 🙂

          • Ah, my dear wife is allergic to raw apples and cabbage. Which rules out about a quarter of the traditional Russian diet. So no apple in her Olivier.

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