I guess this is now a tradition: the first post in the new kitchen in the new country. I’m in Siberia now (since Thursday) and I’ve been eating only pelmeni since then (literally), but today I finished cleaning, and it was -27°C outside, so I decided to stay in and make dinner. Cook something other than hot-pot mac-and-cheese for the first time in five months.
While I was chopping the onion—or actually crudely hacking it—I was thinking: this is just making a normal weekday dinner, this is not “deciding not to bother and going out to Cooksoo at the last minute” or “let’s experiment with cool Estonian things I found in the supermarket”—this could just be, I’m at home and living my life. Like I will for the entire rest of my life. This is what it will be like when I get back to the US in June after three years abroad—exactly the same as it was before I left (except worse, because without my cat, who cruelly and unnecessarily abandoned me by dying). I don’t want to stay abroad but I don’t want to go back either.
I kept going. I put the onions in the sauté pan and started stirring them with the weirdly expensive spatula I’d bought that morning (at the third supermarket I’ve been to since getting here). (Russia is much more expensive than Kyrgyzstan.) I was: Oh yes, I like doing this, I remember. I like sauteeing onions in a pan the same way I like, for example, sitting in a chair with my feet tucked in. I added garlic. Thought about Bishkek. I don’t know what.
I got the broccoli out of the freezer (I wanted something green and leafy, but there wasn’t anything. That’ll go to the top of the When I Get Back to the US list) and soaked it in some hot water so I could chop it later. I hung up my laundry. Everything here smells like Estonia, the laundry detergent and soap (not the air). You can buy a little bit of feeling like you’re at home.
I added the broccoli. I turned on the heat under the pot of salted water: it had just been sitting there all this time. I tried to open the jar of tomatoes. I couldn’t. I tried again and again and again and made some inappropriate jokes about feminism and Russia. I will not write them here, but you can make your own, just don’t tell anyone them. I eventually got the tomatoes open and scored a victory for women everywhere.
I squeezed them into the pan, opened the mozzarella cheese and started slicing it. (Things are easier to find in supermarkets here than in Bishkek.) I’ve learned that you don’t need a grater. Or a colander. Nothing but a pan, a cutting board, a knife, a bowl, a fork. That’s what I’ve taken away from the past three years. I hope there’s something else, too.
That’s about it. I’m eating it now. It came out pretty well, actually. It tastes normal. Pasta with cheese and tomato and broccoli. It tastes like normal life. I will need to do something crazy in this last place.