Recipes for the Real World:
"Oleg's Russian Salad" by Sally Cragin (Button #2)
This summer, my friends Peter and Romayne invited a pair of
pre-adolescent Muscovite boys to come stay with their family in
Ashburnham for six weeks.The idea was for the kids to learn English
and everyone else to pick up a little Russian. Nyet for the Russian,except
for their son Christopher who picked up some rude phrases that
made the Russians giggle. One presumes, at his pronunciation.
Oleg Shiriaev was small, dark and speedy with an especial fondness for Christopher's air-rifle, American comic books and pickles, which he consumed by the institutional-sized jar. Fyodor (FAY-dor) Smolenchuk was tall for his age, exceedingly thin, distracted and poetic-looking. He preferred not to speak in English, and invariably replied to any comment with a tragic half-smile. My most vivid memory of Fyodor has himlying recumbent on a wrinkled afghan on his bed, a copy of the "Silver Surfer" open on his lap and a faraway expression in his eyes. "All he needed was the filterless cigarette and the smoke curling around his face," commented Peter. I didn't know someone as young as Ryodor could suffer from ennui. But maybe it was just homesickness. One suspected that these were exceedingly urban children,and for themto spend the summer in a house in the woods of Ashburnham was not, perhaps, their glass of tea. Towards the end of their stay, they opened up a little bit more Oleg showed an aversion to the word 'Soviet' applied to anything distinctly Russian, and I managed, in a complete fluke, to beat Fyodor in chess, an event which gave him the giggles.
I discovered that Oleg had been keeping a vocabulary list since he'd arrived. I wish I could reproduce the pages verbatim, with his Cyrillic explanations. Instead, I will copy his words, in order, as they make a wistful found poetry of:
Oleg's American Summer
Magnifying glass, vineyard, canoe, snore, limp, parquet, hollow, decade, coward, caravan, capsule, capacity, camouflage, armpit, adult, bump, flush, stuff, license, miracle, job identify, studio, shed, acclaim, adore, monarchy, air force, dentist, rubber, engine, punk, acide corruption, plug, hydrant, pin, salmon, shrimp, lobster.
Fyodor got curious (these two were seldom more than eight feet apart, even when swimming), and I asked him to write down his words. Oleg snorted and muttered "McDonalds, Coke Sprite," and after Fyodor punched him on the arm, he wrote his list: basketball, bicycle, potato, orange juice, house, home.
One evening, Oleg was persuaded to cook something he'd had in Moscow and he came up with the folllowing, which is very good if you have it with a big hunk of boiled meat, which we didn't since it was summer.
Oleg's Russian salad
Mix together equal parts diced:
Ditto pickles (These were Oleg's favorite. "He'll eat them with anything," marvelled Romayne. "I'm encouraging him to finish the jar so I can put dry cereal in it.") Glop enough mayonnaise onto this to bind it together. Oleg insists this is the only way, and that pickles and mayonnaise are authentic Russian tastes.
That's it. Dosvidanya mes petits. See you at Red Square.