When you come away from a lovely dinner with our Russian hosts it won’t only be your full belly and the vodka nips that give you a warm glow. Intrepid’s Boris ‘Bob’ Golodets explains why a home-cooked meal and meeting the lady of the house are always a highlight…
“She is one of our superstars. I know tonight our Russia Highlights group will go to Lena’s house for dinner and they will love her and have a wonderful evening. She lives in old town Suzdal on so called ‘Grape Street’ – one of the oldest and most famous in the city. Lena can show you the book with photos of her grandfather standing in front of their house with fanciful decorations on its facade.
Lena loves to cook. Being a cooking manager in Soviet time she had good schooling and can give a master class. Like many Russians she enjoys a nip of vodka, so this season she started to make Hrenovuha for us – a homemade tincture of vodka infused with horseradish, honey, cinnamon, cloves, marjoram and some secret ingredients. Do you know T-shirts with the phrase ‘Vodka – connecting the people’? Probably it makes some sense, because after dinner Lena turns the music up loud and invites everybody to dance.
Lena and I are actually opposite characters, because I prefer not to drink, I don’t like to dance and I’m not a fan of her favourite Russian pop music. But even though I like a calm, quiet atmosphere, you can’t help but be swept up in her charismatic personality.
Usually Lena calls me plenty of times to check the final details before we arrive: where exactly we want to sit, what soup to cook, shall we come precisely at 8 pm or a little later. At first I thought it was a little annoying, but now what’s important is that we can always rely on her. It’s important that she does care. She loves to communicate and she is proud of what she is doing.
I never, never saw Lena in a bad mood. She is like a good actress on a stage: people come to her house and she conducts herself like a hospitable hostess. She smile, dance, speak as if we all are her best friends and all day she has been preparing for our visit and eager for us to arrive.
While her biggest joy comes from sharing her home with people, she also has to care about money. Living in Suzdal is not easy: salaries are low, prices are high. She has a son and grandson – she plans to build a new house and develop her guesthouse business. But she always offer a second helping of food, another round of vodka, additional deserts, sweets, jam… Nobody ever leaves her house hungry or without a smile!
Lena is a typical representative of a modern Russian provincial resident. Speaking about our policy of local interaction she is an ideal example. Cordial host, skillful cook, passionate dancer. She is cheerful, sincere and lovingly loud. Lena is the synonym for life in its most bright display!”
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* photo by Rachel Wasser – Intrepid Photography Competition