Monday, February 28, 2011

Thai, finally

It should come as no surprise that I love Thai Food*. In San Diego, and indeed in most of the US that I've spent time in by now, Thai food has become increasingly popular. Unfortunately, the same is not true here. Since arriving in Russia, I have become more of an experimental "chef" (I used this word in the loosest fashion) and eaten out very infrequently. Because I love cooking, I haven't really minded, but recently I had a very sudden and intense craving for Thai food. On Wednesday (Day of the Defender of the Fatherland), the original intent of the evening was to eat at such a restaurant, only to be turned away upon arrival (I guess reservations on a holiday are something we should have thought of).

Desire still burning inside of me, yesterday Polly and I had an increasingly characteristic Sunday date at a Thai restaurant in Moscow, a place called Baan Thai , near the Kievskaya metro station slightly South-East of the center of the city. It was easy to find (despite being a 10-15 minute walk from the station) and along a major street. We walked in and had our coats taken by a man near the door, then descended into the restaurant (down some stairs and around a corner). It was divided up into three rooms, so we choose a table in the middle room (so each room had one dining party--it was not a busy night) for a little privacy (or something).

cute mandarin tree decoration on our table, which took all of Polly's efforts not to steal.

my blurry self, hair softer than ever

The decor/ambiance was very pleasant and low key, and only disturbed by the two men dining together in the other room having simultaneous conversations on their cell phones. Loudly.

The service was prompt, and they offered both English and Russian language menus (we had one of each). We ordered strawberry mojitos, a vegetarian spring roll appetizer, Polly ordered pad thai and I some red curry made with coconut milk.

The mojitos were de-lish and made with real strawberries and the food was superb (so spicy! a rarity here in Russia) and satisfying in every way. The only downside is that it was rather pricey--our check totaled at around 2200 rubles (~$73), although Polly and I agreed that it was worth every single kopeck of that.

*Why is this no surprise, you might ask? Because I love ALL food.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Defender of the Fatherland Day (and other sundries)

This was a holiday we had on Wednesday, February 23rd. I sort of just love the name, it's a mouthful. Anyway, it started off as a day to commemorate the start of the draft (wooo!) by the Russian army in 1918, changed names a bunch of times, and now it's known more casually as Men's Day and is the counterpart to the public holiday of Women's Day (which is a way less cool name for a holiday. Typical!) on March 8th.

I get inordinately excited for random days off (even though I usually don't do much), so it was a good day for me. I spent the better part of it baking-- an apple coffee cake with crumble topping and I FINALLY make the sauerkraut rye bread I'd been dreaming about. When I made the buttermilk rye bread a few weeks back, I had originally set out to make this sauerkraut bread, but when I went for the sauerkraut, I realized I had thrown it out! (A student had given me some months back, and I guess I assumed it had gone bad [is that possible?] and tossed it at some point. I vaguely remember this). Strangely enough, the day after this failed attempt with the sauerkraut, a student (from the same class! a morning group of housewives) came to class bearing some as a gift!! So anyway, the sauerkraut rye bread came out amazing, as did the cake ('cause, yaknow, it's cake)! Then I went in to Moscow with some Russian (and one Irish--ok, my roommate) boys and celebrated "Men's Day" with them by eating a platter of sausages (their choice) and drinking beer. It all felt very manly. In any case, it was an appreciated change to my usual Wednesday afternoons of teaching for 5 hours straight.

I guess I haven't posted enough for this to get mentioned, but I ended up with a 3-day weekend last weekend (another time where I was disproportionately excited for an unexpected day off!). This weekend ended up being similarly (though not quite as) sweet, in that my lessons that cause me to get home at 21:30 were cancelled on Thursday, and since I have Fridays off it meant my "weekend" was extended a little. In actuality, I did not have Friday off, as there was a mandatory workshop I had to attend at the central school in Moscow (where I had to go every day in August. Oy). It wasn't bad, and at one point I got the ball rolling on some Donner party jokes after the topic of the Oregon Trail came up, which had most of the Americans in the room laughing and everyone else (the British and one Australian) confused, probably. One American, between laughs, tried to explain to the person next to him, but it just came out as "They ate each other!!!" followed by more laughter. Crazy Americans...

I thought having to go to the workshop would be an excuse to do something in Moscow. So afterward I moseyed to a giant bookstore (Biblio-Globus) that is rumored to have a decent English-Language selection. I never made it to the English section, as I was distracted by all of the other books I was passing to get there, and also by the crazy Russian system of organization that made no sense. All I am certain of is that it was NOT alphabetical by author's last name. I did pick up a two-way Russian-English dictionary, though, so worth the trip I suppose. Anyway, it's been just barely too cold to enjoy walking around outdoors (-13C with occasional, biting winds), and for some reason I was crazy tired (probably from the madness of the bookstore, which was crazy busy), so I just went home and downloaded a copy of the Oregon Trail and relived my childhood for awhile. I went to bed around 10 and slept 11 hours, which was amazing. And my Saturdays have also opened up a little, and I only have the two lessons in the afternoon (with brother and sister Sasha and Masha. awwwwwwww!) and nothing in the morning anymore.

That's enough for this long and rambly post. This story was not about a tomato the whole time:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Buttermilk and Valentine's Day

A little while ago I wandered to a part of Mytishchi I hadn't yet been. Now I have been there. These are pictures.

I just love the way everything looks in the winter.

In other news, never in my life have I purchased as much milk that had already turned by the time I got to drinking it. I've become quite the expert at coming up with recipes utilizing this incidental buttermilk (y'all ought to know I ain't gonna waste a dollar by throwing it out). One of these creations was two loaves of a rye buttermilk bread (this is just one loaf, and the second one actually looked better. Oops.):

Polly and my's awesome and totally romantic Valentine's Day eve dinner... on the menu: homemade buttermilk mac and cheese, homemade buttermilk biscuits (NOT cookies!), a real salad with leaves and no mayo, mashed butternut squash, and some strawberry wine that came in a little grenade-looking jug. And yes, that's Al Green playing. (taken by Polly)

flying saucer over our dinner... (taken by Polly)

I must say, the card and chocolates from teenage boys is pretty endearing/a lifelong dream

the inside of the card! AWWW! means something like "soooo much!"

I've been here 6.5 months, so I feel like I should write something about my job, which is, after all, the reason I am here: It's ok. I can't say I overwhelmingly love or hate it, but overall I must enjoy it. Some classes are better than others, and the dynamics have changed throughout the year. There are some students I just totally adore (some of the teenagers, children, housewives) and probably only one that I am perpetually frustrated by (most of this stems from a bit of an attitude problem on their behalf-- I had a couple of individual lessons with this person and those weren't bad). The real shortcomings are not with the students, but with the administration. I didn't think I would feel this way several months back, but I am pretty certain I will be staying another year. Any downsides are outweighed by the fact that I LOVE living in Russia. It's hard to put my finger on exactly what it is, so I'm not going to try. And I don't mean to imply that I don't miss the States-- because I do, more than ever. While teaching works for now, it won't work forever, and I feel like I have to give myself a real chance of living here without being stuck in an English bubble, so a lot of my free time and thoughts are devoted to scheming up ways to make that happen. (Marrying an Oligarch?)

P.S. I'm taking suggestions for how to use the last of my buttermilk.