Plov with Young Chicken: The Soviet Experiment, Part 1

Here commences the Great Soviet Experiment (or perhaps, that is, the second Great Soviet Experiment). I will be cooking something from each former republic, in order, because I am back in America and have nothing to do and miss the Soviet Union (historically and geographically).1 (That is, I will do this one and then probably forget about the whole thing.) I’m starting with Azerbaijan because it comes first in the Russian alphabet, and I’m doing this from a Russian cookbook.

It’s called Cuisines of the Caucasus and Central Asia, by William (or Vil’yam) Pokhlyobkin (Вильям Похлёбкин)—he’s also done cookbooks on the Slavic countries and the entire Soviet Union, which I thought was what I bought, but I guess it was too heavy so I got this one instead. It was a while ago in Bishkek, I don’t remember anything. (Important note about Pokhlyobkin, whose name is impossible to spell in English: it seems like he’s an expert on Russian cuisine, and just sort of decided to branch out into Central Asian and other former Soviet, so we should maybe not trust him too heavily. But it is nice to use the Russian-language cookbooks that one has bought. Also, apparently he once got into trouble for writing a book about tea.)

Anyway. For Azerbaijan, we are doing a chicken plov (#plov), because most of the other dishes were much meatier (mostly lamb), and no. Plov is basically a dish of rice and meat from Uzbekistan/Turkey/many other places that they eat all over the former Soviet Union because, at least in Russia, they are obsessed with the food of their culinarily better neighbors/take-over-ees. There are literally entire books about plov, which is something I would like to own, so I will not go into more detail on it here. It is very complicated.

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The last new place / последнее новое место

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.

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This is the view from my kitchen table/desk. ПРИВЕТ, РОССИЯ!

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For Hillary

This is just going to be a personal post. It’s not going to be inspiring (though, links at bottom) and it will definitely sound super selfish. Commiserating today has been helping me. So, this is where I am at for now.

I still feel sick. I’ve been crying for two days straight. My heart—and you know I mean this, because I hate talking about my heart—is broken into a million, billion pieces. For me, for Hillary, for our country, that we don’t get to see her as president. I wanted that more than anything.

On Tuesday night, before I went to sleep—around midday in East Coast time—I had never been so excited in my life. I’ve been waiting for this since the 2008 primaries. I’ve loved and admired Hillary for a really, really long time. I honestly don’t remember how I decided on her back then. I remember how excited and proud I was, standing in a New Haven library and filling in my ballot for her, to be voting for a woman, a strong, progressive, feminist, just fucking awesome badass woman. And I’ve been with her ever since—just, really quietly, because of all the times I’ve had people (mostly men) tell me I was wrong. And then. Well.

In my Russian conversation class today, when we were talking briefly about the election, my teacher said to me, “All the students have been in bad moods today, but you seem really upset. Why is this so close to you?” I just kinda mumbled, “It’s hard to say.” Partly because I didn’t want to start crying again, partly because many of the reasons were things I wouldn’t have felt safe saying while I’m living in this country, partly just because it is hard to explain.

I’m a Jewish, queer, slightly mentally ill woman. That’s not really why this scares me so much. I’m white, and I can hide the rest of it, which I do, most of the time, which I’m ashamed of. So, hi—here’s the truth. This election will change me. It’s hard to say “home” right now when I think of that place, but: I will do everything I can to change this country when I get home.

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I made baked ziti tonight (sort of). This post was going to be about it. About how it’s my home, but that sounded stupid. And it’s not MY home that matters. But this is how I am trying to make myself stop being so tired and sad and despairing and get up. It didn’t work, but I’ll try again.

 

I’m also collecting links to YES LET US GO FIGHT articles:

Ask Polly
Daily Kos
Deadspin
HuffPo
Jezebel
Leslie Knope (Vox)
Man Repeller
Medium 1
Medium 2
Slate

Hot plate hot problems

I don’t really know what the title of this post means. I only have a hot plate in my kitchen here, so I am going to be experimenting with Hot Plate Cooking. I haven’t even made the dish in question yet, so maybe it will be fantastic. Haaahahaha it will not.

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This picture has nothing to do with the post, I just like it. It’s from the Osh Bazaar.

Today I discovered a horrible truth: there are apartment-hunting websites far, far, far, far, far worse than Craigslist out there. Like, I am sitting here actively thinking I WISH THERE WERE CRAIGSLIST IN BISHKEK. This seems like a very bad sign just about life in general. (The ads here either don’t tell you where the apartment is or who the roommates are, or they want a girl who will pay no rent in exchange for making borsht.) Continue reading

New year new country new coffee

Hello from Kyrgyzstan! I have been here for almost a week and am like on the verge of beginning to attain normalcy here. ALMOST. Beginning.

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In the vicinity of Ala-Too Square (the main square in Bishkek)

In the course of my explorations today I went to a new grocery store and was deeply delighted to find that they had my favorite instant coffee. Yes, this is the previously untold end of the saga of the instant coffee taste test: I won. I am actually slightly embarrassed by this. Not only did i find an instant coffee I kind of liked, after almost a year of drinking it I have turned into some sort of horrible instant coffee lover. An instant coffee lover who is horrible, that is; not a lover of horrible instant coffee. I love only the finest instant coffee. I will maintain (with deep shame) until my dying breath that this one is actually good. Continue reading

THE RETURN OF THE COOK!

Many things have happened since last I wrote, both in life and apparently in WordPress. Everything looks very scary and confusing. (Am I talking about life or WordPress?! You’ll never know.)

So I have returned from glorious Estonia 🇪🇪 🇪🇪 🇪🇪 🇪🇪 🇪🇪  and am in AMERICA for like a month. I have been enjoying my gluttonous, wicked comforts, such as air conditioning and General Tso’s chicken (haha lol oops vegetarianism). And I bought challah. And the chip-and-pin machines don’t work here. And everyone speaks English, which is terrible, because you have to hear all the very dumb things they say. Personal favorite: “I totally just had the runs in that bathroom!” I heard that on 6th Avenue and 34th Street. And I keep drinking Starbucks, because they don’t have it in Estonia, and in Russia I can’t understand what they say because they speak in Russian. Basically I’m enjoying myself.

I was *extremely* thirsty while I was grocery shopping just now, so I bought, among other things, Gatorade (bright green because I love green), watermelon, and the ingredients for dill pickles (or basically just dill and cucumbers since I forgot all the other ingredients). If we have vinegar in the house, I am going to make them.

After searching for vinegar: Here is a picture of all the vinegars we have in the house. Most of them were donated to my parents by me, two years ago, when I moved out of the Official Relatively Shitty Apartment. And none of them is white vinegar, except for the one that is white vinegar, but there’s like hardly any white vinegar left.

I also found a six-pack of Harpoon Rye IPA, which sounds like the best thing ever, but it was filled with Sam Adams. Ahem, parents.

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Further adventures in instant coffee: a warning to you all

23.9.15

Last week I was in Russia (Pskov and Petersburg AHHHAHSDFHAD) on a study trip, and when we were in the most amazing supermarket of all time that was exacty like the Home Depot of food I decided I had to buy this instant coffee, which I surmised would be astoundingly and fantastically terrible. (The company is MOSCOW COFFEE. And then some more words that I don’t understand.) There were a lot of other kinds, including one that had the Eiffel Tower on it, but I decided to go for the less-good-looking one. So.

My hand is in this picture in a very awkward way.

My hand is in this picture in a very awkward way.

I’m writing this before tasting the coffee, because I’m a little worried that things will Never Be The Same, and not in a good way, after I drink it. The coffee particles look a lot like dried wood chips, a la the ending of Fargo. They are a very strange color. Some of them look like coffee, some of them look entirely not like coffee. The smell is not un-coffee-like, however. It has that slightly acidic smell that some kinds of coffee have. (I am hesitant to compare it to anything because that just seems mean.) Fuck, the water finished boiling. My fate is nigh.

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Instant coffee taste test, part one

There are a bunch of instant coffee taste-test posts floating around online, so I’m going to ignore all of them and conduct my own. It will probably depend on which one is cheapest at the supermarket that week. I am not bothering to buy a drip machine because last year in Glasgow I did, and it sucked (it was like ten pounds and it came with a German plug, which was weird, and sometimes it would just open by itself while it was coffeeizing), and the ground coffee was too expensive, and sometimes they didn’t have filters in stores and I would have to go to like three or four supermarkets and finally only found them in WAITROSE (omg too many good Waitrose links). So I’m going instant this year. I did it all summer in Russia and didn’t even mind, so this means: 1) I’m way less of a snob than I thought and 2) I have terrible taste in coffee. Café Bustelo 4 lyfe.

:(

😦

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Russian food (maybe?) in Estonia

HI FROM ESTONIA! I got here almost a week ago and have been subsisting on: “Mexican” wraps from a very small store on the main square where they sort of speak English but which is also unfortunately frequented by loud American teenagers; cheese and Estonian black bread; Nutella, spread with a steak knife because my apartment came with all utensils except butter knives; frozen vareniki and smetana (well, I cooked the vareniki first and the smetana was not frozen); instant coffee (I will totally do a taste test sometime); and овсяная каша с малинами. I bought that last one over cheaper options because the main label was in Russian and I was homesick. Or something. In a land where the main labels are in Latvian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Polish, Finnish, German, and Spanish (in more or less that order), anything Russian is friendly and comforting.

So now it’s a late Sunday afternoon, exactly cooking time according to my habits the last time I regularly updated this blog, and I have an Estonian cold or maybe allergies, and I finally finished washing the pots and pans that came with the apartment and the dishes I bought for fifty cents each from a departing graduate student, and I’m going to cook something.

My green kitchen!

My green kitchen!

I’m going to cook something my Russian host mother made for me at the beginning of the summer. Whenever she made something I really liked and I asked what it was, she would say, I don’t know! I just made it up. I haven’t even tried it yet. I don’t know if it will come out. And it always did; but I never got her to teach me how to cook. So I’m making it up, channeling my inner Russian babushka (who may or may not exist), and we’ll see. I thought during this summer that I wanted to cook more without recipes, just inventing with whatever vegetables I wanted to eat, so we’ll see how it goes.

This is going to be a vegetable soup/stew/mixture/thing of cabbage, beets (I like beets now!), potatoes, onions, and carrots, since that’s more or less what was in the one she made, as far as I remember; and I have some vegetable broth things (identical to the ones I bought in Glasgow except in Polish … so actually I don’t really know what they are); and I have salt and pepper, and that’s all. Oh, and some bread, and some cheese that’s in Estonian. It’s called maasdam. I would Google Translate it, but that’s not fun.

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BAGELS WHAT WHAT WHAT *INCOHERENT BABBLING*

IT IS HAPPENING.

BAGEL TIME.

AHHHHHHHHHH.

Since three people read this blog and they all know that I moved to Glasgow for grad school, I will not update you about how I moved to Glasgow for grad school. But I did. And THEY DON’T HAVE BAGELS HERE. They have most other things that are necessary, but I am, for lack of bagel, starting to become a small, weak, WASPy white-bread of a former human being. So this shit is happening.

me: should i make bagels
Jeff:  Absolutley.
Absolutely
why haven’t you started
me:  because of fear and also because the kitchen is cold and smells weird
OK I’M GONNA DO IT
Sent at 6:54 PM on Friday
me:  it’s happening AND I AM GOING TO BLOG IT.
Jeff:  “the relatively Jewish cook”

I am watching Master Chef Australia. It is Friday night, and I feel pretty good about that. Oh no, Master Chef Australia just stopped working. Pause. Never mind, it’s back. Anyway. I measured warm (???) water, barley malt (which I actually HAD IN MY POSSESSION ALREADY because the spirit of bagel is strong within me), yeast, and salt with my beautiful kitchen scale that came from home with me.

Bagelmaking commences. Master Chef Australia in background.

Bagelmaking commences. Master Chef Australia in background.

And it’s in my one and only pot (not even a bowl) because I just like didn’t buy cooking supplies when I moved here. And then I measured in the bread flour, and then I mixed it with my pink wooden spoon that is falling apart such that bits of things get stuck inside it and it’s disgusting. And now the dough is resting. Now it’s time to knead. Hold on.

Jeff: Oh, it would be very hard to deal with the shame of making bagels in front of 82 invisible people.