Friday, February 13, 2009

Russian Grapes and Other Tall Tales.

Yesterday there was an international potluck dinner at the kids’ school. Every family had to bring a dish from their country of origin. I brought breaded chicken and fried potatoes. Not very Russian, but it was all I came up with. It was the first time ever I cooked something for such occasion. The problem with Russian cuisine is that it involves too much work, so I prefer to shy away from it. Back in Beijing I once brought green seedless grapes to the international lunch and advertised them as a purely Russian delicatessen. I had a story to go with it - how with harsh climate of Russia, it is such a rare treat that people eat it only on special occasions and very, very slowly. At the end of the lunch I heard one little boy saying to his mother, “Mom, I liked Russian grapes so much, can we find it here?” Most of the world will think “Russian” and say “vodka”, but some little boys and girls in China will think “Russian” and say “grapes.”

Come to think of it, I am very fond of spinning tall tales. Back in Moscow I once convinced my students, who should have known their teacher better, that if they rub the Tsar Bell in Kremlin and go around it twice, their wishes will come true. Before long some tourists joined in and were dutifully rubbing the bell before counting the circles.

My most bizarre and successful tall tale is about cockroaches. A communal apartment of one of my friends (apartment where several families live in) suffered from the invasion of cockroaches. We discussed different methods of getting rid off them that didn’t involve harsh chemicals; they had a dog and a young child. On the spot I came up with a new method –you take a dropper, fill it with Viride nitens (The Brilliant Green Solution, which is a common antiseptic in Russia), mark one cockroach with it, and release it. The brilliant green colour will scare all his comrades and they will leave your premises. I told this with an aura of confidence and left. Close to ten o’clock in the evening I got a call, “You just invented it, didn’t you? We spent the whole evening catching cockroaches and colouring them green.” The funniest part – coloured cockroaches did die, but it didn’t affect their comrades. What can I say – in every story there is a grain of truth.

On the same, more or less, subject it is Friday the 13th today. Consider yourself warn and take things extra slowly.

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