Sep 26, 2007

Я поправлюсь, ты поправишся, он поправится... (On Russian cuisine, part 1)

Here's a little bit of cultural insight for ya. The Russian verb "to improve" is the same as the verb for "to put on weight." And maaannnn, have I been improving. I'm not sure if I already mentioned this, but my babushka was very, very dissatisfied with my weight when I arrived. And every five days or so since then, she's put me on the scale, to see if I'm any better prepared for winter. So today's story is not really a story, so much as an overview of my menu at home. I've had requests to talk more about my home life, so here goes.

Because my babushka goes to work before i wake up, she makes breakfast and leaves it in the kitchen for me. Every morning in bed, I get to imagine what's waiting for me on the table. Sometimes its butter, sometimes cookies, sometimes salami....

Sugar for my tea, chocolate cookies, heavily buttered bread with salami, crackers, and tvorog (translation: something white, very rich and sweet, probably from a cow, but i can't guarantee it, and i think with sour cream on top of it).

Yeah so up there i was just kidding, its always butter, cookies, and salami, and a variety of other fattening-agents. So I make the bed and get dressed, and sit down to a cup of tea (with sugar), some thickly-spread butter with some bread and salami on it, a tall stack of cookies, and an even taller glass of 7.1% milk. And I eat as much as i can, I really do... I know she'll be really happy if i put on a few kilograms (that's right, metric. Talk about culture!) Usually, I have to devise some kind of scheme to sneak the food back into the refrigerator, such that she won't notice, or flush that extra spoonfull of tvorog down the toilet. 'cause i'm sure she checks the trash.

Look closely, I wasn't kidding about the percentage. Also, I have no idea what language this is. And note the ever-present bag of cake-cookie-things.

Of course, I'm the same exact weight I've always been, 55 kilograms on the dot. But as the year progresses, I'm going to keep you posted with pictures like this one:

This view is getting awfully familiar.

I'm exaggerating; there has been some variety. One time, I found two chopped up hot dogs on a pile of buttered noodles. And at the dacha, I actually ate... well I won't ruin it. It'll be this week's activity for all of you. Here's a picture of it...

Hint: you can ride this animal to the store, to buy sausage made out of it.

So here's your task. Go to some online translation site (i recommend, and copy and paste "конь колбаса." And to the one of you that speaks russian... I know that isn't proper grammar, but the translation site didn't understand it otherwise. And to the one of you that will probably be outraged/disgusted by this, I promise I didn't enjoy it!

So that's my menu. And, for obvious reasons... its actually delicious. All the food here is natural/organic/whatever you want to call it, and so the milk and butter taste a lot better, and i don't feel as sick as you'd expect. But that may just be the result of a lifetime of eating tons of butter and bread.


Deliciousness aside, I hate this country and everybody in it.

Not really. but the culture definitely has me shocked, more than in past posts. I'm feeling all the various emotions that the program warned me about. I know its all part of the cultural learning process, and so far I haven't felt any real despair... but I'm definitely noticing some unpleasant/weird side effects. For example, patriotism, where there was no patriotism before.

Earlier in the day, I had had some confusing interactions with my babushka, and it was really hard to tell if she was angry at me or not. She didn't seem to be responding to anything i said, and otherwise just seemed unusually unhappy. That happens a lot here... but i'll get used to it. anyway, that happened, and my language skills are definitely at a low point, and so all of Russia didn't seem all that great.

So I was on the bus on the way back from my balalaika lesson (seriously) yesterday, and I looked at the moon. It was full, and bright, but otherwise looked almost exactly like the moon we see at home. But I felt this weird swell of patriotic pride in my heart, about how we landed there before the Russians could. I thought about how deflating it must have been for them, and how inspiring for the rest of us, and I was all of a sudden ready to pin that flag on my backpack. And even more than that, it felt like some kind of personal victory over every other person on the bus, as if they all get depressed every night when the moon rises, and even more this night, because they somehow knew there was an American with them.

So that was odd. And like I said, I don't speak russian, at all. But tomorrow I embark on a six-day tour of the neighboring buddhist/mongol region, and so i'll be properly immersed, and doing fun exciting things, for almost a whole week. And then... its already been more than a month, and soon I should be on my way. So to summarize, don't get too worried yet, parents. Everything is going according to plan.

Eat it, commies!


Berta said...

Mmmm. Nothing like fresh hot dogs with noodles. You know, I feel guilty every time I write you an email and get a response saying "ohhh I miss that so much." hehehe.

Poor nink!

As always, though, I can relate. You miss the darndest things abroad.

Anyway, keep the posts coming. I'll post again, someday. When that confounded essay is done.

Berta said...

Oh...and...yes! I am completely DISGUSTED that you are horse!!!!!! Just think of poor tucker...or champ...


Berta said...

Oh...and one more thing...I love that last photo. Good stuff!

And another thing...before I post 20 comments...I wish your babushka luck on getting you to gain weight. You're like my freakin' brother - eat like a horse (important note: "like" not "a"), and not gain anything.

I'm a terrible employee.

beth said...

oooh. lovr this blog! cookies,"synthetic" salami, butter, and milk. sounds like island grocery fare to me. in your care package, do you need me to send pocket weights or heavy shoe lifts? just let me know.


geoff said...

joey, i've got the solution for you, and i'm surprised you haven't thought of it already. get a siberian phonebook, and find the location of the nearest chipotle's. go there. great food.

johnnyjwaz said...


You are a riot. I believe in you Nink, and I know that you will weather the culture shock.

For every old lady you push over trying to get on a bus, pick up two when you aren't in a hurry.

We missed you at camp this summer, especially you flier comments, though this blog is beginning to fill the void.

Johnny Waszczak

Annie said...

Another wonderful thing about the United States is that people who say things like "I hate this country and everybody in it" are protected under the first amendment. Yet another wonderful thing about America is our courts actually enforce things like the first amendment (secret prisons and detainment camps excluded). In certain other countries, however, they do things like force dissidents to ingest plutonium and fry from the inside out over several days' time. So watch what you say, will you? And don't eat cookies if they're glowing.

Annie said...

As an addendum to my previous post, we may chuckle at the translations rendered by such sites as
I'm fairly certain, however, that the FSB employs real humans that are fluent in both Russian and English.

Natasha said...


я плохо пишу по русский, но я постораюсь тебе только по русский писать.

не бойся бабушки. задавай ей вопросы про её молодасть и разказывай про себя, и про свою бабушку и маму.

ты еше нечего не расказал про твоих новых друзей, кроме как о бабушке. там есть скем поопшатся нармально?