Monday, November 20, 2006

You say poTAYto, I say poTAHto

Since Chris finds it necessary to make us all jealous by describing all the wonders of the world of Swiss cuisine, from chocolate to cheese, I think it’s high time I put forth a food post of my own. Though I warn thee – read with caution. My diet isn’t not quite as gourmet.

It’s a good thing that I’ve not joined the fad and given up the consumption of carbs. Otherwise, I think I would have wasted away by now, because for the most part, my current diet depends heavily upon the consumption of carb-heavy foodstuffs. Let’s look at the last week’s worth of dinners – potatoes, rice, buttered pasta, potatoes, potatoes, pasta, and more potatoes. I usually throw in some tomatoes or the “salsa” stuff that the old ladies make that’s so good, but other than that, it’s basically just a lot of starch. Now, I’m not doing this because I can’t find anything else, and I’ve only just recently become conscious of how bad this diet is. But it’s just so dang easy. Every kiosk and corner store has loads of taters and rice and pasta for sale. But in order to get meat (I mean REAL meat, not sausage or “pashtet” – Russian pate) I pretty much have to walk on down to the market. Which is less and less enjoyable considering how cold it’s getting outside (current temperature at noon = -20C). On the weekends I can take a bus directly down there, but on school days, unless I want to go home and back, I have to walk because there’s not an easy-to-take bus route from the university. I know. I’m lazy. I should just suck it up, walk the walk or pay an extra 5 rubles for a bus fare. But I don’t, and I don’t know why.

And carbs taste good. The fresh baked bread is awesome – and only 9 rubles per loaf still warm from the oven. And I’m getting good at adding to my potatoes – different veggies and such. And I can’t forget all the blini and kasha – my usual lunch fare. At the “Blinnaya” cafĂ© down the street from the university, I can get a double portion of blini with “cguschenyi moloko” (sweetened condensed milk), a bowl of rice kasha with butter, and a cup of tea (with sugar and lemon) for a grand total of 40 rubles. That may not sound like a lot, but as Erica once told me, I “eat like a bird”. I don’t have a big appetite, and this fills me up quite nicely until dinnertime. And the staff doesn’t even have to ask what I want anymore :-D (I can’t decide if this is a good or a bad thing).

Maybe I’m subconsciously trying to make up for the excesses of this summer. I went way over my personal budget when I was in Europe, and this is me punishing myself. At this rate, if I keep eating potatoes instead of “beefshteaks”, I will have gotten myself out of this financial rut by New Years. And then I can put my anti-credit-card resolution into play. Also, I kind of feel bad about the difference between my situation in the care of the McDermott Program and the finances of the local students here. Someone told me that a good student stipend in Irkutsk is 300-500 rubles per month (approx. 12-20 dollars). I spend about 100 rubles a day (if I don’t buy any DVDs or CDs) – and that’s ON the carb diet. This is one of the reason’s I’m not looking forward to returning to Dallas. Central Market and Waterview Park will quickly liquidate my bank account if I’m not careful. Of course, there’s always fresh tortillas and queso at Taco Cabana…

Worry not though – I’m not wasting away. I’m still here and going strong. And I’ve got good meal plans for this week, though probably not as good as most of you. The two American boys and I are going to try our best to give each other a taste of home on Thursday. As yall get ready to stuff yourselves full of all the things I can’t get for Thanksgiving (oh, what I wouldn’t give for a slice of pecan pie and one of grandma’s caramel brownies), just picture me scouring the city of Irkutsk for a decent turkey. I asked my roommate yesterday if she knew where I could find one and her answer was, “I think I can get you a live one.” Oh boy. I think this is going to have to be a post of it’s own…

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