A Russian Experience: In the Kitchen

Moxie Schults, ’14, spent a summer in Russia and participated in the St. Petersburg: Smolny College program.

Starting with Marina in the red shirt and going clockwise: Marina, Alla (my babushka), Sasha holding Svetik, Polina, Nastyusha, Lyosha, Yulia, Tanya holding Yasa

After spending the summer in Russia where she intensively studied the language with support from a Foreign Language Acquisition Grant, Moxie Schults, a third-year ISHum major, stayed on to participate in the St. Petersburg: Smolny College program. Moxie has kept a detailed blog of her time abroad and shares with us an excerpt about her experience in the Russian kitchen.

Greetings friends!

I have at last finished up all the straggling bits of my midterm week (more like hacked away the clinging poisonous seaweed vines, or maybe burned back that vine from the first Harry Potter book that grows faster the more you chop it, but is afraid of fire…), and what a blessing it is to have a weekend to do with as I please. I spent the greater portion of this morning and afternoon sitting at the far corner of my kitchen table, putzing with various projects and talking with Nastyusha. She was busily gluing pumpkin seeds to a drawing of a pumpkin patch, and told me she was a rabbit. I asked her what she liked to eat, and she said “borsh and milk.” I asked her how a rabbit would eat soup, and she said, “like this of course!” and curled her fingers into little paw-fists and used both of them to sweep the air in front of her face into her mouth. Later, she was a чудовище/monster under the table.

I had the opportunity to practice all sorts of useful vocabulary (and practice my prefix use!) when I намазала/spread butter on/ my bread, and when I засыпала/poured in too much (of a dry product)/ salt in my tea. [Why salt in my tea? I picked that up in Mongolia, where they always prepare tea with milk and salt, and sometimes butter].

Smoked salmon budderbrotSmoked salmon ‘budderbrot’ and caviar budderbrot. And because it’s a special occasion, take out pizza.

The twin girls are now about 16 months old. Svetik (from Svetlana) has some kind of developmental disability (she’s already got glasses) and can’t walk yet, but this doesn’t stop her from frogging across the floor—she pushes off with her legs and slides along on her stomach. And Yasya (from Antastasya) is walking all over the place. If I leave my door open (which I do more and more often now) she will come in to see me. She’ll bring me a little hand puppet, or her plastic turtle in a fireman’s hat (but orange), and essentially ask me to entertain her with it. She only has 3 recognizable words so far (mama, dada, and baba (babushka)), but she’s very expressive with her tone of voice and has a rich gestural language (point! wave! give! take! etc.). And she understands way more than she can say. I can ask her to take a toy back to the kitchen, and she’ll do it. I can ask her to show me something, and she will. I can stick out my tongue at her, and she laughs.

In the KitchenStarting with Marina in the red shirt and going clockwise: Marina, Alla (my babushka), Sasha holding Svetik, Polina, Nastyusha, Lyosha, Yulia, Tanya holding Yasa

Here’s a picture of my family from a few weeks ago—it was Sasha’s birthday (grandfather of the twins and Nastyusha) We normally don’t eat meals together because everyone’s busy and on different schedules, but for special occasions the family will prepare something special and pull the table out from the wall and clear off all the toys and plastic containers of nuts and sauce bottles and little bowls of half eaten banana and cookies and all the other things that accumulate on kitchen tables, and set everything up for a fancy occasion.

Although no one drinks alcohol, this did not prevent the russian prazdnik/holiday/birthday tradition of each person at the table giving a long toast/speech in honor of Sasha, followed by draining our glasses. We drank a lot of juice.

All out.


Text and photos submitted by Moxie Schults, ’14. To read more, visit Moxie’s blog.