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Ramble On

My travel part of the job is over. I feel kind of tired and empty but at the same time definitely enriched and even renewed in some way. When you travel, you tend to be somewhat more observant and – with all the things going on around you – with your eyes turned within you somehow. The last three weeks on the road have been especially intent – perhaps not in a culinary sense (pity!) but in a whole range of senses. It isn’t for no purpose (wow, double negation!) that it all happens at this point in life, I’m sure. One of the positive things along with a fair share of laughter and smiling – I started listening to music again, that’s a good sign, perhaps one day I’ll come back to my guitar(s!), who knows. I’ve also figured out what I’ve been missing for quite a long time. Well, there were numerous things crossing my mind throughout these September-November journeys in the North of Russia, and I appreciate that. I have no idea how long this transition period might last but anyways I’m glad that I’m going through it, quite remarkably just before I’m about to turn 25 (oh-oh). I’ve recently looked through my photos of the same age the kids we’ve been testing for their English competence these days are – gosh, cannot believe it was me and at the same time can easily recognize myself in everything I was at that time. I guess I’m still the same Georgia malgré all the whirlwinds of changes around me and within me (although I do admit there was time I was too young for the gorgeous Robert Plant, haha=). At first I wanted to apologize for writing all this on a food blog, but then, well, it’s mine, right? =)

I want this post to make me memorize this moment and to have something to help me later recall this time. I just feel a bit nostalgic and that can also lead me to some reflections on the Soviet topic, which is good. I’ve been promising this for quite a long time, haven’t I. This post contains some pictures I wanted to share with you – obviously Soviet objects, aged and full of memories.

But as this is after all a food blog, let’s start with food. I used to LOVE fish, yes – especially brrrr sprat (kilka in Russian, a typical appetizer, or zakuska, to soften the vodka taste)! With my Granddad we would just feast upon those sprat tins. Oh my. And then something happened and… No more fish e-v-e-r. Well, I have always been quite picky, making my Mom’s life even more difficult during the empty-shelves late 80s-early 90s. I had a weird choice that time, I hated even strawberries and was afraid of gooseberries, haha. Once I managed to stack one of those sugar-covered round sweets into my n-o-s-e and my Mom rushed me to the hospital only to find out that the sweet melted on its own. I loved (still love!) to gobble down the black bread (especially Darnitskiy!) before lunch and then be even less khm eating. I always used to fish out meat from my soup and whole berries and fruit from my jam or compote. We used to have our ice-cream warmed up to some sort of a creamy mash because my Mom was afraid we would get ill AGAIN – we were keen on that with my sis. And one thing I still hate – here most of the Soviet kids will be in sympathy with me – is the – imagine! – warm milk soup with rubbery macaroni and – yuk!- the inevitable scum. I wonder what I did eat back then, but somehow survived. And no fast/convenience foods and thanks God for that, cause we had bulochki and blini – and what could be greater.

This traveller-bear on the top of the post was not my teddy bear, I even was afraid of it when one of our distant relatives gave it to my sis and me. I actually had no teddy bear at all, but a variety of Soviet toys like a plastic tortoise on wheels (!) that you could propel into something (I would stubbornly get it stick between the linoleum and the floor, what a naughty child!) or my Mom’s doll with a head detachable after changing generations of ‘users’, haha, that I named Molodushka (can be translated as Forever Young Girl, I suppose). I remember abandoning all our toys together with my sis at some point cause we declared being too old to play with them anymore. The stored bags full of toys were some time later rediscovered behind the wardrobe and happily played with again – for some of them until when I was 12, I guess.

I took the pictures of this book in a small library in Arkhangelsk – one of my favourite children stories about bread – Tepliy Khleb (Warm Bread) by K. Paustovskiy (1954) and there’s also Lisichkin Khleb (Fox’s Bread) by M. Prishvin (1939; if you ever get across his personal diaries, grab the thing and read!). I used to ‘swallow’ all those stories about nature, animals and apparently food when I was a little girl. Used to go to a local children’s library with my Mom, still remember the feeling one gets when one is significantly smaller than the bookcases and even the librarian’s counter! I could not learn to read before going to school (or, better, my sis failed to teach me and also made me hate school even before going there!) but as soon as I did I became a voracious reader and I AM glad that we had no computers at that time, no Internet and nothing else to distract us from reading. I still have and keep (weirdo;)  a book listing all the books I’ve ever read since my second grade at school. We used to even draw pictures for each of them, I remember. I went to a private school until the 8th grade, actually, the only one in my town and we had all those lessons which were supposed to develop your child’s personality in a different way from a regular school. Although not much teaching you how to deal with different people and a bit over-protecting you from the ‘reality’, those private school years were very beneficial and happy. And then I had to break our small cozy world and enter the new one of a regular school. Was a shock to me I had to make friends myself!

My favourite fairy tale? After some reflections, I guess it was The Frog Prince, especially with the traditional-Russian-styled illustrations. I used to adore listening to Cinderella audio book and Nutcracker suite on the LPs and once even fell ill listening to the former (!). I used to be a very cheerful child hopping around, singing my own songs, always without front teeth or something=) and usually in some of the clothes either passed down to me from my sis or even further or made from my Mom’s /Dad’s clothes by my Mom. I used to be called a boy – not surprising if you’re short-haired and in trousers and called Gera (my short name is exactly the same as the one made from Georgiy, the boy’s name). Well, here I can tell you loads of stories about my name and all that 🙂

{although I cannot remember listening to this old Soviet radio much, I mostly played with its buttons to imitate a space ship, haha, but actually this was one of the first things my grandparents purchased when they got married. A cool thing even today, I think}

Music. Oh, music has always been an integral part of my upbringing, my parents being sort of ‘advanced’ in their music taste from their school years. A black-and-white photo comes into my mind of my Dad sitting next to our reel-to-reel tape recorder with me attached to this sort of bag on his back =). I somehow rediscovered the music I’ve been literally living on since my birth around the last years at school. It was weird and exciting to listen to the veeeeery familiar pieces but with my (blah-blah) bettering understanding of English and music in general. It took me some time (and still does) to adjust my ear to elaborate sounds and intricate melodies and sometimes shrieking voices but along with it I now have one of the greatest gifts in my life – music.

{the background is a characteristic Soviet wallpaper we still have somewhere in our dacha attic. And yes, we used to spend all our summers at dacha, a place closely related to my childhood memories}

There could be so many other things I could recall or share with you but I guess I’d better get back to cooking;)

Will be back with some recipes soon.

See you soon!

G.

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