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"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up."

Arthur Koestler 

Entries in Russia (72)

Tuesday
Aug302011

Moves With Eggplant

Every blog needs a restaurant review on occasion, so the next time you are in Murom, Russia, be sure to go to the "Nobles' Club." 

To understand any Russian restaurant you need to understand the phenomenon of the "Businessman's Lunch." Russians are not linguistically chauvinistic as the French are. The French actually have an official council that approves official French words. They want only "proper" French words. They do not want to repeat the horror of "le computer." The Russians could care less. Drop the proper ending if the noun needs to be declined and they are fine with it. So the English phrase, "Businessman's Lunch," is a proper Russian phrase now. It refers to a discounted lunch that they can bring to you quickly. 

The first place we went to only had a "Businessman's Lunch" available. We did not want a simple salad and soup for $3. Certainly the price was right, but it was not what we wanted. Most of the restaurant bursting into a dirge made the decision even easier, we would go elsewhere. (The main room of the restaurant was hosting a wake.)

We had passed by the "Noble's Club" earlier, but as it was only a door with a sign we did not consider it. We went down the very steep stairs (as is typical in Russia my wife had high heels.) The club was a cellar made from bricks. The decor was very nice, and the bricks had an irregular pattern with arches that was esthetically pleasing. We did not want the Club's version of the "Businessman's Lunch" so we ordered from the dinner menu. 

The English version of the menu they gave me was translated with Google Translate and had a number of amusing entries. One salad had sliced languages. Since I did not want a tongue salad I passed on this—much to my wife's disappointment as she wanted to share. We ordered zakuska (Hors d'oeuvres)- Champignon Mushrooms in a cheese sauce and a salad with fruits. The salad with fruits ended up as a type of Waldorf Salad without the walnuts. I ordered the lamb that “moves with eggplant.” This was, I thought, a mistranslation and should have been “comes with.” I was not happy with the $17 price, but it turned out to be a full rack of lamb so the price was all right. I was correct, the lamb came with grilled eggplant. Elena ordered the fish. We were happy with the food, but the sauce for the lamb was a little strong.

One negative was the wide screen TV hanging above the musician area. It was on MTV Russia, and it actually had music. The reason this was a negative was that I did not want to watch Snoop Dog sing, "I Want To Make You Sweat." Nor did I like the song that followed which had the chorus "What the ****."

It was an enjoyable experience and I would give "Noble's Club" 4 forks. 

 

Wednesday
Aug172011

This Is Russia

Most of us would not consider throwing trash out of our car. It is culturally imprinted on us. This imprinting by the old on the young is not all bad. It is how we learn. But each culture is different. 

I remember walking with my fiancé in Russia. She dropped something on the ground. I was horrified. She did not understand my concern. This was normal. There were, in fact, no trash cans to throw things away in as we are used to here. When she understood my concern she said that in America she would not litter.  

When in Russia you do as the Russians do was her idea. She has now adopted the American cultural imperatives with regard to litter. Seeing how clean (relatively) America was in its public spaces showed her how it should be. Of course her home in Russia was always spotless, but the public areas were, and are, a mess.

On our last trip to Russia we passed an informal dump. It was just a place near my mother-in-law's apartment. In America the landowner would have been forced to clean it up. As a landowner I have been forced to do this on two occasions. People just want to avoid the fees for the dump, and a neighbor is so convenient! My nephew did not even notice it. When we pointed it out to him he said, "This is Russia." 

Each country has good and bad aspects to its culture. But as the Hebrew proverb says: 

If everyone cleaned his own doorstep, all the streets would be clean.

How clean is your doorstep? Or is this Russia? 

I am posting this on the day we will leave for Russia, so no doubt if I am able I will blog from there. I have a number of posts ready to go and in a queue. If I am able I will post regularly from Russia, if the internet is better than it was last time! Hopefully there will not be an interruption in my vital blog posts! 

Oh, and any burglars that might be reading this, I have a house sitter! 

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