When Stalin died in 1953, his body was placed into the Tomb where he played Felix Unger to Lenin’s Oscar Madison for the next 8 years.
They spruced up the front with Stalin’s name:Continue reading →
For the longest time a trip to Argentina has occupied the top spot on my imaginary bucket list, patiently waiting for its time. Talking about my dream to visit Argentina became such a part of my life that after finally getting it done, I might be at a loss of subjects to discuss in a polite conversation. In any case, the trip and the country of Argentina turned out to be everything I imagined it to be and much more, and became the longest, the most expensive and the best trip of my adult life.Continue reading →
With toilet paper question solved you ask your host where the restroom is.
Communal (shared) restrooms.
After the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917 the housing problem was solved by adding more tenants to the existing apartments sometimes leaving original owners with a small room in their previously spacious quarters. This went well together with some idiot’s dream of communal living but created lifetime of conflicts and misery which is still going on. The resulting apartment was called “kommunalka” which is simply a communal apartment. All my life from birth till age 22 I lived in such an apartment. First, our family of 3 shared an apartment with my grandparents (2 people) and my aunt’s family (3 people) and the apartment had a total of three rooms, one small kitchen, one shower and one toilet. Then we moved to a place where in a larger apartment five families shared the same common facilities sans the shower and hot water. Imagine for a minute your Christmas guests permanently moved into your house, then multiply the misery times 5 and you may get close to what the kommunalka was.Continue reading →
Communal leaving did not translate into shared fiscal responsibilities. That’s why when you approached the restroom you would see a number of light switches of all shapes and sizes, everyone had their own electric meter. Using your neighbors electricity was a huge faux pas, I don’t recall any fights in our apartment but we were “lucky” to have non-violent and mostly sober neighbors. Guests using lights other than their host’s would probably get a nasty look.
Hygiene problems were solved by each family owning a toilet seat. If you read carefully so far, you can easily calculate that our restroom wall sported 5 toilet seats and looked something like this. Needless to say that I did not anticipate the thirst of my readers for toilet stories, so the picture below is not mine.
In lieu of the toilet seat game some people resorted to climbing up on the stool somewhat resembling an eagle but, anyone who had seen me knows that I am not a contortionist and not a huge risk taker to perform something like that. Note: I don’t know who the model on this photo is, I am posting it strictly in the interest of truthiness.
Finally, clutching your precious square of toilet paper, with the correct light switch on and your favorite toilet seat in place you are ready for the act. Of course, I don’t even have to mention the need to mouth-breathe at all times, most places did not have any ventilation and deodorizing sprays were not available. My apartment had a window in the restroom so the smell problem was somewhat fixable. At times you would hear suggestive knocks on the door reminding you that you are not alone and other people have to use the bathroom, you are not in the frigging library, etc. Sometimes knocking on the door would become more intense indicating that your time has expired, or else. You get up, you use you allocated TP, you pull the handle and….nothing. We lived on the third floor and half the time we didn’t have running water. Years later the pipes were replaced and they found that the old pipes where completely clogged up. Until then we had to carry the water upstairs in a bucket like mythical Sisyphus just so we can flush it down the toilet. So if your host left around a bucket of water you breathe the sigh of relief, flush the toilet and exit into the crowd of people giving you evil eyes and nervously dancing by the restroom door.
Still, you are lucky you were able to use indoor plumbing. In most of the rural areas and old buildings in the city the facilities were outside but that’s a different story.
To be continued…
By a strange coincidence as I was preparing to write this, a post showed up in my reader with some research on the origins of this recipe. Apparently it has some Jewish roots and comes from the regions of Ukraine and Moldova, where people enjoyed it for years with a myriad of variations. It has a pleasant refreshing taste but I was surprised to discover that many people enjoy drinking slightly fermented brine than eating the greens. In any case this is very simple to make and goes well with any meal.
As with most recipes published here you can’t really screw this up. I started with 2 bunches of leaf lettuce (you probably want to start with one), garlic (young garlic is preferred, but I didn’t have it), and a bunch of dill.
Chop dill and garlic, cut and throw away the thick ends off the lettuce and chop or chiffonade the rest in 1/4” or wider strips. You cannot have too much of any ingredient here, so don’t bother weighing and measuring.
Place everything in a bowl or container. In a pot heat up some water, add salt, white vinegar and sugar to taste. The taste should be pleasant, not too sweet, not too sour, not too salty. We are not making pickles here or brining a turkey, make it so the taste is enjoyable to you. Heat up the liquid until it boils, then let cool down a little. There should be enough liquid to submerge the greens, but keep in mind that they will compact to about a third of the original size. Pour warm brine over the green mix and let sit on the counter until it cools completely or even overnight. It’s ready to eat in just a few hours.
According to the article I read, many people add a piece of rye bread to promote fermentation and consume the resulting refreshing drink. In my family we just eat it as a salad, but I must admit that I never drain it and enjoy the brine as well as the greens.
When I was growing up® and the produce was still seasonal, this was a welcome taste of the spring and early summer – fresh, green, smelling of dill and garlic. Nowadays, you don’t have to wait til May to try your first lettuce of the year but somehow it still tastes better around this time.
And now we dance!
So you come home with 20 pounds of apples in a bag. No need to panic, I am here to tell you what to do. In about an hour or two you could be eating the best apple cake you have ever tried in your life. In fact, it so good that you will try to eat it all while declining tempting offers to exchange some of the cake for money and/or sexual favors. The cake is called “Sharlotka” and yes, there will be people who will tell you that this is not the right way to make it. Tell them to go f make their own Sharlotka, because this is the one and only way to make it and they don’t know what they are talking about. I would also like to warn “the creative types” not to post here with comments like “I added a pinch of salt to the recipe, some chicken, vegetables and a pie crust and now it’s a chicken pot pie”. I will ban you from this blog without regret.
For this recipe you will need a baking dish with flat bottom, some apples, 6 eggs, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of flour. That’s it.
Peel, core and slice the apples. If you are a lady, cut the apples into uniform cubes of about 1/4 inches. If you are a gentleman, reach for your favorite (apple-peeling) tool-device.
This machine cores, peels and slices the apples in one smooth motion. There is no excuse for not having it. Women and small children love it. Hack processed apples into smaller pieces. Peeled apples may brown after sitting on the counter. If you care, you can sprinkle them with lemon juice; I personally don’t care – it’s a cake,not a painting.
Place the apples into your baking dish. Here I clearly went overboard, peeling them was so much fun (unless you are a lady) that I went through a few too many. Don’t worry, you can never over-apple the apple cake.
Now proceed to separate the yolks from the whites. Whipping egg whites is easier if they are cold and no particles of yolks were accidentally mixed in. However, I did just that (not on purpose) and everything turned out OK. If you are an older person like me you would remember that back in the day we whipped egg whites with a whisk. It was tedious, boring and exhausting process. Fancy households had mechanical egg beaters, still a hassle and lots of cranking. Then came electric mixers and only here my dream to own a stand mixer finally came true. If you have one, place egg whites in the bowl and slowly raise the speed to “high”. If you don’t have the right equipment you can use any of the lesser tools.
You will need to attain stiff peaks (not my stripper name) but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Slowly add sugar and continue whipping. The foam will become shiny and you will not be able to feel sugar crunch on your teeth. This may take 5 minutes or so.
Add egg yolks and whip some more.
Add flour and get it to blend in, no one likes unbaked chunks of flour in the cake, you won’t get any points for a crappy product. Pour the mixture on top of the apples and spread it evenly.
In a 350F preheated oven it goes for an hour. Leave it alone.
In the meantime you still have your apple peeler out and plenty more apples to use. Add a small amount of apple juice, Sprite, water of other tasty liquid to a sauce pan and place it on the medium-low heat. Peel and slice as many apples as will fit.
Pour some honey on top. Do not go crazy with it unless you like it too sweet.
Cover and cook on medium low until apples look and feel soft.
Use potato masher to make some apple sauce of the desired consistency.
Now get the cake out of the oven. Test it by sticking a toothpick in the middle, if it comes out clean, you are done.
After the cake cools, get your favorite bottle of Homewood Hooch from the fridge and enjoy the cake.
And this (to quote John McCain), “my friends”, is how you bake “Sharlotka”.Continue reading →