The butter-week, as before remarked, is followed by the great fast, the severity of which banishes not only flesh and fowl, but milk, eggs, butter, and even sugar, on account of the small mixture of animal substance used in the refining. Soups made of kwas and mushrooms, fish, and cakes flavored with oil, tea and coffee with almond-milk, mushrooms again, with cucumbers in vinegar—those are the dainties that succeed the fat blinnis, rich pasties, cakes, and rotis of the butter-week. Neither is wine or any spirituous liquors permitted, whereby a cook might give some spirit to his mushroomed, fishy, oily, fasting-sauces, or the tea-drinker to his watery beverage. The people of the lower classes exclude even fish in the first and last weeks of the fast, as they do on the Wednesdays and Fridays in the remaining five. These two days, which must always take precedence of the others, are distinguished in the last week by total abstinence. The very strictly pious extend this additi onal severity of observance to the whole seven weeks, with a three days' total abstinence in the week before Easter. Even the upper classes observe the fasts much more strictly than they do in catholic countries. The first and last weeks, with the Wednesdays and Fridays of the remainder, are generally religiously observed. The greatest number of infractions of the fast bear reference to the brandy-bottle, the very point in which abstinence would be most beneficial; some maintain that the Russians drink as much of it during the fasts as at any other time. It is not, however, called brandy, but it is enjoyed under the disguise of all manner of euphemisms.
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Sears, Robert. An Illustrated Description of the Russian Empire. New York: Robert Sears, 1855