13 August 2006

Super Mega All-in-One Post!

I think I got yelled at by a nun today!

The story: We didn't have anything scheduled for today, and since I haven't done much sightseeing, I decided to do something "Moscow-y" and go to the Novodevichy Convent. It was a really nice trip - at my roommate's recommendation, I got off the metro a few stops away and had a nice long walk down a quiet boulevard to the convent. It was sunny and the convent was lovely - built (I believe) in the 1600's, with much "Moscow Baroque" architecture - and, to my surprise, there were REAL NUNS there. So I took a picture (from afar) of one standing in the doorway of the nun-barracks, and before I knew it she was coming up to me and scolding me about something! I guess I should be flattered that she thought she could effectively scold me in Russian, but I was so confused and mortified that I was struck completely dumb. I swear the first thing she said to me was "Вам кто позвонил?" ("Who phoned you?"), and I don't think she said anything about нельзя or фотоаппарат ("mustn't" or "camera"), so I don't know what I did wrong. Maybe she was trying to convince me to become a nun?

Another thing I wanted to mention:

On Thursday I went for a morning jog through a beautiful park near the university (formerly the estate of some duke). "Fixing" pets isn't as common in Russia as in the US, so there are a lot of stray dogs around. This fact is usually frightening (ask me about the dog fight in the subway sometime), but that morning one of the strays in the park decided that I was playing with it, and jogged with me the whole way through the park! Once I realized he wasn't going to bite me, I enjoyed the company. I was worried he would follow me home, but right before I left the park he encountered another dog and lost interest in me. So cute!

And another:

I think there is a general sentiment among Americans (at least, Americans who don't study Russian) that Russian food is bad. I would like to dispel this vicious rumor. A sampling of five delicious things I've discovered (or rediscovered) here:

1. Milk products. They're so good! One great one is kefir, a tart yogurt drink that's best (I think) when fruit-flavored. Another is tvorog, a soft, sweetish cheese (a bit firmer than cream cheese) that's used to make my new favorite food: syrki (сырки). Imagine little cheesecake logs covered in chocolate.
2. Blini! Blini are like crepes, and you can get them with savory fillings (I like ham and cheese) or sweet ones (jam, fruit, Nutella). Apparently there is a difference between blini and blinchiki, but I haven't quite worked out the finer points of that.
3. Pel'meni! These are my other new favorite food. They're like meat ravioli, but rounder and more delicious. You eat them with smetana (sour cream) or vinegar. I prefer the latter.
4. Juice. Russians like juice a lot more than Americans do. It's cheap and there are a zillion flavors. In fact, there's a whole aisle devoted to juice at our grocery store.
5. Chocolate with lots of little holes in it. I think you can get this elsewhere (Nestle Aero bars?), but Russia is where I first had it, and I think it's the best kind of chocolate ever made. It kind of crumbles in your mouth.

Mmm! So you see, I haven't starved yet, despite the lamentable lack of peanut butter. The verdict is still out on borsch, because I've still never had it, but I'll be sure to report when I do.

Also, the winner of the guess-the-largest-embassy contest was Diana, for actually trying. No one guessed correctly that the largest US embassy is in fact in Baghdad! (Big surprise, right?) Diana's prize is a postcard and the food-related portion of this post.

Hopefully I'll eventually find a way to get my photos from my internet-less computer to a computer that does have internet, or I'll find some wireless. Then you can see pictures of the convent! But not the picture of the nun, because I felt so guilty that I deleted it from my camera.



Anonymous said...

OK, the food sounds great so far ... but they haven't come up with the same stuff or imported Skyr from Iceland. Truly great milk-based food invented by those Icelandic cows.

Somehow, I doubt the nun was trying to convince you to walk on in and become a nun. Too bad you deleted the photo of her from your camera, as I would have liked to have seen it!

You are providing/seeking comparsions between Russian life and culture and the American lifestyle. While there are not a lot of parallels between big-city Moscow and small-town Ohio and it's been awhile since I've been on a subway, I am quite certain that we don't have dog fights on public, underground transportation. Heck, in Norwalk, Ohio, we don't have public transportation of any kind!

Your obedient,

Will Niebling said...

I think you'll find in Vladivostok that they eat the pelmeni with soy sauce. Apparently this is a thing in Eastern Russia, or so says my distant cousin who lived in Vladivostok as a little girl over half a century ago. It's a Chinese thing.

Anonymous said...

leslie, i feel your lack of peanut butter pain. i did it in Spain for months and it's not necessary but not nice. in sympathy, consider this comment box a voucher for one jar of American peanut butter of your choice. cheers!

Rosa said...

write more about food! Yummy!

Lisa said...

How can you not have had borsch(t) yet?
In my experience (we had it about every day in Ukraine), it's actually a fairly broad food category (like "vegetable soup"), where the actual ingredients (and temperature) vary from one bowl to the next.

They also told us (I kid you not) not to worry if your poop turns red - it's the borsch, you're not sick. Thought I should pass that along. ;-)

Hope things are well. *hugs*

<3 from Japan, L

Anonymous said...

yay! i won! i would like to taste the blinis and pel'meni. i think you can find kefir in certain grocery stores in the u.s..

where are you going to send the postcard? i am in the process of looking for an apartment but you can send it to my friend at 23 magnus ave., somerville, ma 02143 and i will get it. : )

when do you go to vladivostok?


Diana said...

leslie oh my goodness!

i am having such fun following your posts. i've never been to russia and yet everything you write about sounds exactly like what i'd expect. i'm so jealous of your adventures and can't wait to visit you -- hopefully this time next year we'll be in leningrad together!

as for borscht, for pete's sake. it used to be my favorite, and it's so easy to make. go to the bazaar and buy yourself some canned beet juicey stuff (borscht) -- or do they only sell that in kitschy Russian stores in Brooklyn? Then put in a few chopped up hard-boiled eggs, some pickles, cooked potatoes, and, of course, the necessary addition to all russian soups: smetana. Yummy. Plus you usually eat it with bread, black rye delicious bread that is nothing like what they have in the States. I don't eat any of that stuff anymore because of my special food plan so you have to taste it and tell me what you think.

Also it's "sirniki," not "sirki," at least that's what my grandma calls them. And yes, they are addictively tasty. The difference between blini and blinchiki is probably that the latter is thinner and more delicate or maybe the former is more of a main dish (filled with cabbage or meat) and the latter is a sweet dessert (berry or fruit or tvorog filling).

I think tvorog is closer to cottage cheese or ricotta, or even better, farmer's cheese, than to cream cheese, but then there are many kinds of tvorog -- it is the general word for soft cheese. There is definitely one you may be thinking of that is more like cream cheese. Try chocolate tvarog, you'll love it.

Ladno, krepko tebya tsiluyu!