Even the Soviet elite is being pinched by the country’s food crisis: Caviar canapes have more than doubled in price in the Kremlin buffet.
But in the stand-up restaurant where members of the Congress of People’s Deputies are breakfasting, lunching and snacking during breaks in their sessions this week, other signs of the country’s economic troubles are very hard to find.
Tables attended by polite servers are loaded with sausage and ham canapes, cakes and cookies, bottles of Narzan mineral water, pots of mushrooms cooked in sour cream and other delicacies that are only a dream for the average Soviet citizen.
What’s more, thanks to state subsidies, prices for Congress members and their guests are very low. Some deputies, but apparently only a very few, object.
“Why are there sandwiches here with caviar when the whole world is contributing food to the Soviet Union?” Dmitri S. Likhachev, 84, a well-known liberal intellectual, complained Wednesday. “Why didn’t the Congress contribute it to children?”
But for many lawmakers from the provinces, the buffet, on the top floor of the Kremlin Palace of Congresses, is a major source of nourishment, since restaurant service in Moscow can be dismal. Deputies have been seen juggling half a dozen apples in their hands as they stock up at the buffet for the evening.
According to buffet personnel, however, there has been at least one concession to the country’s economic woes. Earlier this year, black caviar canapes were raised in price from 55 kopecks apiece, or 33 cents, to 1 ruble 28 kopecks, or 77 cents, to compensate for the increased cost of caviar.