The Adjustment Period

I am the type of person that will attempt to grab all the grocery bags out of the car, despite their weight or number, and carry them up the stairs to the front door, risking breaking everything (and incurring a possible dreaded extra visit to the West Orange Shop Rite) just to avoid taking more than one trip. Even though it would be so much simpler (and safer) to just take two trips. Or gasp…even three. I think this all began when my spoiled little self had one chore growing up: after my mom would pick up everyone’s abandoned items downstairs and place them on the staircase, I had to deliver them to each individual’s room on the second floor. To cut my chore duty time in half, I would try to do this all in one shot. I would throw on any jackets, put on my brother’s hats, drape my sister’s clothes over my arms, all while balancing stacks of my mother’s food magazines and my father’s thirty seventh all-in-one mini tool set from Walgreens. I remember being pretty good at this; however, I also have distinct memories of being yelled at after tiny screwdrivers and wrenches that turn into nail clippers would inevitably come tumbling down the stairs.

The one good thing about this is it was practice for apartment living. I don’t really have the comfortable option of two short trips from my car to the front door since my only choice really is to drag all the bags at once for several metro stops and a good 30 minutes total of walking on the street. Sure I could hail a gypsy cab, but what’s the fun in that? For some reason I choose to nervously reach for my key while holding two slipping bags on my shaky and sweaty pinky (not sure why I can’t put the bag down in the hallway, but just go with it), praying I don’t drop the one with the carton of eggs in it and crack them all. Yes, that has happened. I wouldn’t be a Pavlenko if it didn’t…Flash back to several trips to the grocery store: my mom holding an empty container on top of 7 others in her hand. Around her, salad, dressing, or blueberries spread (or bounce) across the entire produce aisle while my mother quietly, but forcefully, tells me to ‘just turn around, and walk away’. I think I’m starting to understand where I get this from…

…I am letting myself get distracted. The point here is that this little habit has at least eased me into one of the adjustments of apartment living in Moscow. Really having to carry your groceries in one shot. But please, I’m a pro. Just ignore the coffee dripping down my hair and into my face. Yes, that has happened too. The harder change for me was mastering shoe removal upon entering the apartment. In the beginning I was tripping over groceries and overheating in my coat (when does that come off??) while balancing on the tiny entrance rug, afraid to step off until I took of my shoes. Russians From Russia (RFR), will take their shoes off upon entering their or a friend’s apartment. It makes sense since Moscow is a very dirty city, but it raised so many questions for me I kind of stressed myself out. Do I need to provide slippers for guests? Will they understand we are here temporarily and don’t have extra slippers? Should I bring my own slippers to a friend’s apartment? – or would BYOS have been on the Facebook invite? What happens if I didn’t bring my own slippers and the ones they have are too small? Do I still wear them? And if I stretch them out? Make them smell?

A lovely change is how great RFRs think our Russian is. They are fascinated that we speak any at all since we weren’t born here, didn’t live here before, and grew up in the States. And our parents weren’t even born in Russia/nearby (except Andrei’s dad). So I speak more confidently even though I know I am making mistakes. Because it’s a wonder I speak any Russian at all. But when I return home or talk to Russians Like Me (RLM) I revert immediately back to English. Because I feel like my Russian to them is much less impressive. Silly. But it’s the truth.

I think my Russian has been getting a tiny bit better. The accents here can sometimes be hard to understand. Or people also just talk really fast. I am taking pilates and the instructor speaks pretty quickly. It’s funny though because even in American fitness classes the instructor could be screaming, ‘Bend your knee!’ in your face and you will still be staring at your very stretched out and straightened knee trying to figure out what to do. But anyway, for the whole first class  I kept thinking she was randomly saying toilet. Pelvis in Russian is taz. A toilet bowl/toilet in Russian is oonitaz. When she would say to stand pelvis width apart, the combination of her sentence really sounded like oonitaz. Made for a confusing first pilates class.

Another difficulty, which sometimes happens to me in New Jersey or mostly in New York City, is not being able to find a lot of things in one grocery store. I feel it more here though. And the stores in the city center, of even Ashan, won’t always carry the same thing, even the next day. There seems to be less consistency.

Hence I used whole, instead of ground, cumin and elbow macaroni instead of orzo in this Spicy Chickpea and Lemon soup (which was almost identical to the delicious Hale & Hearty version):

So, I recently went to four grocery stores in one day in preparation for making traditional Easter (and one more lenten) sweets. Not sure if either store would carry all the spices I need, I picked up any that I saw along the way at each grocery store visit. When I got to the last place on my agenda, I still needed cardamom. I found it. It came in a convenient combo pack with the other spices I had already bought seperately. So if you need ground cinnamon or ground nutmeg…I have plenty to give away.

Because of all the prep for Easter and church services taking place during this last week of our Great Lent (hello, WHERE did the time go?!), our meals won’t be very creative this week. Plus I’m too exhausted from my full day spice hunt to come up with some brilliant dishes to close out this lenten season (no worries though, another lent is lurking just around the corner). So it’s soup, spaghetti, leftover soup, and more spaghetti on the schedule.

But I’ll very quickly share a meal I made (that I thought tasted pretty fabulous) from before our short trip to New Jersey. Judging by the busy week ahead, I don’t think I will be able to work this into another post before Lent ends, and I wanted to get it out there. Maybe someone sick of spaghetti and shrimp can use this (you know, since you would never dare to eat this outside of a lent 😉 ). A little twist on my mushroom patties:

Mushroom & Tomato Sandwiches served with Arugula & Orange Salad

For two sandwiches: Boil a medium size beet until tender (or buy pre-boiled beets). Meanwhile, dice 1-2 tomotoes. Toss in a bowl with 1 chopped garlic clove, fresh chopped basil, olive oil, white balsamic, salt/pepper to taste. Set aside and let the flavors soak. Chop about 3/4 lb of mushrooms (large slices of portobello would probably also work every well). Saute them until tender and liquid has evaporated. While they are still warm, season with salt/pepper and mix in some lenten mayo (I do try not to rely on fake this and that, but the lenten mayo in Moscow is actually quite delicious). Spread some of the mayo plus dijon mustard on one or both sides of some bread, preferably a baguette. Top with the mushrooms then the tomatoes and greens of your choice.

For the salad: Make a dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, a splash of white balsamic, salt/pepper. Toss two handfuls of arugula with some of the dressing, reserving the rest of the dressing. Remove peel and pith from one orange and one blood orange carefully with a knife along curves of the fruit – keeping it intact. Slice crosswise. Peel and slice the beet. Top bed of dressed arugula with orange and beet slices, and some black olives. Drizzle remaining dressing (to taste).


3 Comments to “The Adjustment Period”

  1. I’m not living in Moscow, but I DEFINITELY know what you mean about the whole ‘all-in-one’ grocery bag trip. I only live on the second floor, but I still need to take everything at once, no matter how heavy. I think I’ve given my neighbours a bad back just from watching me prepare myself and make the trip!

  2. YUMMMMMM!!!! where was THIS recipe in the beginning of Lent when I was stuck on creative tasty lenten food???!!!!

  3. Olya, I totally relate to trying to bring everything from the car in at one time — computer case, purse, lunch bag and 2 bags from Whole Foods!
    All the recipes look wonderful and I’m definitely going to make the soup this week, because 1)the mushroom/barley soup isn’t going to last to the end of this week and 2) I have whole wheat orzo in the pantry (always have chickpeas, tomatoes, lemons, etc.)
    I love this kind of food and actually eat it most of the time anyway.

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