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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

A Visit to the Russian Grocery

We have international markets near where we live because it’s an international city.  However, our family makes a point of supporting not only the generic foreign shops, but specifically Russian markets when we’re in the mood.  The food items are distinct and conjure up positive memories for the children.

“Z’fir!” the boys exclaim over cookies that appear to be meringue.  They also linger near the jelly-like Turkish delight candies.  Both of the choices strike me as simultaneously too blah and too sweet.

In my own self-serving way, I persuade them to go for a big chunk of halva (halVAH), a ground sesame seed dessert, so that Benedetto and I can have a bite, too.  The rule when we visit a Russian grocery store is that everyone gets to choose one item, or if it’s large, then share that item with a sibling.  I’m not so sure that we parents get to select anything, therefore I have to hedge my bets any way I can.

Benedetto heads back to the freezer cases with the pelemeni (pehlMEHnee), the meat-filled Siberian dumplings.  I spy some blinchiki (BLEEN-chee-kee), cheese blintzes, in the general vicinity, but resist the urge.

“Soohariki!” (sooHAHreekee) Mashenka murmurs, holding the bag that approximates the aluminum foil appearance of a small packet of potato chips.

But no chips here.  Instead, in true Russian style, these are crusts of black bread with sausage (kolbaSAH) flavor.

“Mmmm…” my husband samples one proffered by Mashenka after we buy it.  “We should import these.  Americans would enjoy it, and it’s probably better for you than potato chips.”

“First of all,” I conjecture, “someone’s obviously already importing them.  Secondly, how do you figure that they’re good for you?” I ask.

“Dried black bread… what can be wrong with that?”

“Are they fried, or baked?”

“Probably baked.”

“So where does the kolbasa come in?” I wonder, knowing that croutons are often high-calorie.

“Chemicals.  Okay, so maybe they’re not extremely healthy, but they have to be better than chips.  Just because one or two Russian markets has them, doesn’t mean that they’re being imported in a widespread way.  I see real potential here…” he muses.

“Then forget about importing them.  We can make them ourselves,” I join in his flight of fancy.

“You know about making soohariki?” he laughs.

“What?  What’s to know?  You throw old bread crusts in a pan with sausage grease, stir them around, then place the crusts in the oven to dry.”

“I see…” he rolls his eyes, which I think is odd because he’s the one wanting to eat dried bread crusts.

I mean, are a lot of Russians having tea parties and cutting the ends off their sandwiches, and then somebody needed to find a niche for cast-off bread crusts?

Sashenka decides on a chocolate bar that she feels is white chocolate, for some reason.  Has she read the ingredients on the label?  No, don’t bother her with the facts.  She looked at the picture of a white seagull, a chaika, on the front and drew her own conclusions.

Turned out to be milk chocolate.

I make an executive decision and pick out six Alyonka chocolates, more for the cute baby’s face that looked down on me every day in Moscow during our first adoption.  The historic hotel overlooking a snow-blanketed Red Square had the chocolates for sale near every cash register.

Thus fortified, and being wished all the best by the store proprietor, we head home for a little pelemeni break.  The aromas and everyone’s cache of goodies bolsters the children’s spirits.  It is in this atmosphere that we will announce to them about their end-of-summer surprise:  Russian camp!

Will they be delighted… or terrified?  Stay tuned….



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