Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Eating Good

I understand that some of you have expressed a concern for how I'm eating, and so I'm glad to tell you it's getting better. I still eat my fair share of pirozhki and sloiky, but I've now mastered the art of buying a cooked chicken (and can even order one by the half, palavina). What's more, while in Belgorod this last weekend I ate better than I have in months thanks to my girlfriend's mother. From beginning to end it was homemade: Pirozhki filled with apple jam (yablochnoye varenye), cabbage pizza (something you'd only see in Russia), plov, a central Asian dish consisting of plump wild rice and sliced carrots and beef (lamb is more traditional), borsch and soup (there is a difference, I learned), and finally bliny, my absolute favorite, pancakes so thin and buttery I'd gladly eat them every day. Anastasia's mother piled them high on a plate, and then we all sat around them at the kitchen table, with first Anastasia's father reaching for one, and then her brother, and then me, and then my girlfriend and the cook. I'm used to eating them rolled up like a rug and filled with berries, but the method here was to fold the blin in half on the serving plate, then into a quarter, and then into an eighth, until at last you're left with only a small triangular wedge. This you'd lift and dip it into one of the bowls on the table: one with sugar-sweetened sour cream, another with honey and melted butter, a third with sour cream and gooseberries. I didn't think I'd like the sour cream servings (the color reminds me of mayonnaise, a condiment much-abused over here) but I found myself going back to that bowl again and again. At the end of my feasting, I wanted to express my thanks properly - and in Russian. I wanted to tell Anastasia's mother that my mother would thank her for how well I'd been fed. But the sentence was complicated. Part of it was in the past, another in the subjunctive, and then there were thanks going toward Anastasia's mother (dative case, right?) and her feeding me, which had to mean genitive, to say nothing of a direct object - wasn't a direct object in there somewhere? My tongue grew thick in my mouth, and after getting about halfway through it all I looked down as if to see my toes creeping out over the edge of a gangplank. At last, my perevodchika broke in. "Just say spasiba bol'shoy." It didn't quite reflect the depth of my gratitude, but after a quick laugh that's just what I did. "Spasiba bol'shoy." Thank you very much.


Anonymous said...

Oh! At last! :)
I'm glad You finally was able to enjoy Ukrainian homemade food!
And your discribing of "eating pancakes"...I love that tradition, no matter what my mother is cooking, pirogki, blini, chebureki, vareniki, its always on one big plate in the middle of the table and surrounded by many small plates with varenie or sourcream, and whole family gathers for dinner! I love it!

WittyName32 said...

Yes, it was about time -- but it happened in Russia, just over the border, but Russia all the same. This is a schizophrenic part of the country, Kharkiv. I went in to buy some local biscuits at the big chocolate shop in town. The biscuits, on the box, are called Kharkivsky Suvenir, but when I called them that, the lady at the counter corrected me with a huff and a deep voice: KharkOVsky Suvenir. Anyways, it was good eating, regardless of where it was.