18 February 2008

Fair Isle and Food

I've been knitting and knitting and finally I have something other than a black blob to show you:

It's my modified Fair Isle 101 pullover and it's actually pretty far along - the sleeves are already done. I did most of the colorwork part yesterday, during what Hubbster Hubbus and I declared our "khoziaistvennyi den'" or designated day for not leaving the house, instead doing things like laundry, cleaning the stove, and resting. This was partly because it was -22C with windchill yesterday. Brrr. Saturday we'd been out in the burbs with Hubbus' family and while it was a really nice time, I think we're still not quite warmed up from that long wait for the bus in the freezing wind. So, between laundry loads, I knitted fair isle and listened to history podcasts. Very satisfying.

Also satisfying has been my recent trips to the historical library. It's so much more pleasant a place to work than the archives, let me tell you. I positively like the babushki who work there - it's a miracle. Oh, and I've been finding really good material, too. I'm starting to hit that phase where I'm no longer obsessing about procedures and whether anything they're offering in the buffet (pronounced "boo-FYET") is edible, and instead panicking about how I'm going to copy everything I need before it's time to leave. Oh, plus I'm supposed to be writing an article and co-organizing a conference and revising the diss and making up syllabi for the fall and...oh, crap.

Before I leave you for today, though, I offer a few more "travel" pictures that I've had saved up here for a while.

One of my professors once said that she "likes everything about Russia except for the government and the food." I actually kind of like the food. The trick with Russian food is to not eat it in restaurants. If you're going out in Russia, you have to have Caucasian or Central Asian food, which is ubiquitous and delightful. But for Russian food, it should be homemade. We just had an awesome feast on my in-laws' yesterday, with golubtsy and fried potatoes and my two favorite salaty (salads) - vinagret and oliv'e (see below). You haven't really tried any of these dishes until you've had them homemade.

Most of what we eat here is really simple, because we're usually too tired to deal with cooking, because the oven has to be lit with a match and it scares us a little, because our budget is very tight this year, and because while you can get just about anything in Moscow, there's not all that much variety in what we can get easily and affordably in our neighborhood. But while I do miss the variety of relatively cheap ethnic restaurants we have in NYC and while I did have a dream about peanut butter one memorable night, for the most part I really like these temporary periods of eating almost exclusively simple Russian food while I'm here for research trips. Here are a few things we've had lately:


This is the vinegret salat I mentioned. Beets. I love beets.


This is Oliv'e, or Olivier. Probably presumed to be based on some French salad, but somehow it doesn't say "French" to me. It's tasty, though, I have to admit. Here's a recipe - it's the third one down. The last recipe on that list is also a favorite of mine.)


One simply doesn't go without one's kolbasa around here. At least, not if one is married to Hubbus, who can't go three hours without some kolbasa. He has to go to the fancy store to get it, too, even though there's perfectly good kolbasa sold everywhere (but then I'm an American cretin who can't tell one kolbasa from another).


Okay, so chocolate cheese spread is not a Russian food, but...who wants to take bets on whether this stuff will turn up in a dream or two when I'm back in NYC, like the peanut butter does now?


You can't get more Russian than bliny with red caviar.


Just as Russian but not as famous: syrniki, made from tvorog (farmer's cheese), with sweetened condensed milk on top. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm, breakfast.


This is not Russian at all, but I made it up while here, out of readily available ingredients, and we've been having it at least once a week, so I suppose it counts. It's basically a ham and bean soup. A small chunk of smoked ham which is sold everywhere here ("sheika"), with lentils, frozen green beans and mushrooms, red beans, onions. Mmm. The Russian word for soup is the same as the English, but when you really like your soup, and it's cold outside so you're feeling even more affectionate about it than usual, you call it "supchik." This is supchik.


Speaking of Russian strategies for battling the cold. Food is not the only one. This is a balzamchik of which we have become particularly fond. It's similar to this famous one, but slightly different in spices and a lot cheaper. There are actually many, many different kinds of balzam, all of them delightful and dangerous.


Especially when combined with drop spindling.

And this Wednesday, we're off to the 17th annual All-Russian Honey Fair at an exhibition hall right next to the kremlin. The fair is also held outdoors in the fall, and I've been to that one twice, but we weren't here for it this year, so we're going to this indoor, downtown one instead. The honey fair is one of my favorite things to do in Moscow - you try a little plastic spoonful of each kind of honey until you're sick to your stomach and a little dizzy, and then you lug home enough to last you the next year. Except it never actually lasts more than a few months. Which is my theory as to why there's an annual fair every fall, and then again every winter.


Finally, here's my recommendation for an English-language Russian cookbook. And a Georgian one, too, because...well. Much as I like Russian food...have you tried Georgian??


jess said...

I love how the Fair Isle 101 looks so far!

And I am with you on the Russian food! You mention a couple of my favorites -- vinegret, bliny (I like mine with herring and a bit of sour cream and onion)... there's a Georgian salad I love, similar to vinegret, but just different enough. And the (actually Polish, but I get it at the Russian market) hunter's sausage, kabanosy. Yum!

OK, I'm hungry now. :) [aside: I'm not Russian but my husband's family is. :) ]

Aidan said...

I was really, really, really jealous when I read about valenki, and now I am even more jealous, knowing you are in the land of beets. I love them, morning, noon, and night.

I wish there was a place in the US where I could get valenki...I am becoming a bit obsessed. I've dreamed about them.

Specs said...

That sweater's looking great! Can't wait to see the FO.