Friday, August 09, 2013

Q and A Session #1



Здравствуйте и добро пожаловать … Hello and welcome to the very first 'Questions and Answers' edition of A Spoonful of Russian Podcast. Coming to you from a small home studio in beautiful Charlotte, North Carolina.

Instead of trying to find time to get back to each and everyone of you individually through email, I decided to start accumulating the questions and answering them in a podcast. I am thinking of getting one out once a month maybe. I am getting questions sporadically. Sometimes several a day, sometimes nothing for days in a row. My hope is to have a large pool of questions to pull from. That way you can count on regular Q&A sessions.

Ways to get your questions over to me:

- contact form on my site: speakrussian.blogspot.com
- Leave a quick voicemail calling: 209-980-7877 (209-980-RUSS)
- email: spoonfulofrussian@gmail.com
- twitter: @russianspoonful (with hashtag #askNataliaW )
- YouTube: youtube.com/spoonfulofrussian

I am aware that many of you prefer to listen to podcasts rather than go to my YouTube channel and view content there. I myself am an avid listener of a handful of podcasts. When I am cooking in my kitchen or lifting weights in my garage I do not really want to look at a video. Truth is we all consume media in different ways depending on our activities. So, hopefully you, guys, will find this format useful and enjoyable.

This would typically be a time in a podcast where I'd share with you a quick word from my sponsors, but I don't have any sponsors! I've been podcasting since 2005 when the whole podcast phenomena was rolled out by Steve Jobs. Since then several companies approached me, but none of them seemed like a good match for the content of this podcast. So, I'm still waiting for my advertising 'prince' … for the business marriage made in Heaven. Make me an offer I can't refuse, and you will not be 'sleeping with the fishes'. So if you are a huge corporation with lots of spare change in your pockets listening to me now, reach out by emailing me: spoonfulofrussian@gmail.com

### What do you think about the Hollywood actors' Russian accent?

MOSFILM (Мосфильм) has been the largest and oldest film studio in Russia. It was founded in 1920 and its output includes most of the widely-acclaimed Soviet-era films.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosfilm
https://www.youtube.com/mosfilm

Some of my favorites:

-  1968 War and Peace (Война и Мир)
-  1968 The Diamond Arm (Бриллиантовая Рука)
-  1973  Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future (Иван Васильевич меняет профессию)
-  1975 The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy your Banya! (Ирония судьбы, или С лёгким паром!)
-  1977 Office Romance (Служебный Романс)
-  1979 Moscow Doesn't Believe in Tears (Москва Слезам не Верит)
-  1985 Love and Doves (Любовь и Голуби)

Here's the interview with Andrei Tarkovsky, a critically acclaimed Soviet film director:

https://vimeo.com/2963155


### In the age of instant information exchange and assimilation of cultures do Russian emigrants still hold on to some "Russian-only" traditions and ways?

That is a great question. Very well-constructed I might add:) I agree that today cultural borders are getting less and less defined. Internet, I think, is mainly to thank for that. I remember times when the only way I could get info about foreign countries was through the hand-written letters of my pen pals. Back in the 1980s our TV had only 2 channels and both of them were run by the government. Radio was a bit different. One could catch BBC World Radio service or Voice of America station and get news that way. But being a little girl that was not my thing.
Now Russians are very much cosmopolitan and have adapted the ways of the West into their everyday lives. But when a Russian moves away from his or her Motherland, they tend to resurrect and cherish their Russian-only customs and traditions. I'd say it is out of sentimental reasons. There is an innate desire to keep to our roots, preserve the rich legacy for our children. I hope I am correct when I speak for my friends here in the States when I say that things we took for granted while in Russia we now find of great value. Personally, I am re-reading all the classics I skimmed through while in high scroll and in college. The same goes for films. I bug my Mom for her family recipes every time I get her on a Skype call. I also try to collect all the family history and old photos.

As far as traditions themselves I'd say hot tea drinking is among the top ones. Of course, drinking Vodka for relaxation will be another. For many, but not for me. I never developed a taste for the stuff:) I'm more of a red wine person. Taking shoes off indoors, of course. Russian emigrants’ New Year celebration is  much more involved and elaborate than that of a regular American family.

- That holiday in itself carries tons of traditions, such as making of винегрет (salad based on beetroot). Here's the best recipe of it I could find:

http://natashaskitchen.com/2010/06/21/russian-vinaigrette-recipe-with-beets-and-sauerkraut/

- Оливье (check out this Olivye recipe:

http://natashaskitchen.com/2009/12/23/olivye-ukrainian-potato-salad/

- селёдка под шубой (dressed herring). A layered salad composed of diced salted herring covered with layers of grated boiled vegetables (potatoes, carrots, beet roots), chopped onions, and mayonnaise. Some cool info and link to recipes here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dressed_herring

- заливная рыба (one of the ways the phrase is translated is 'aspic fish'). There's a very famous and widely quoted line from that film I mentioned above that says "Какая гадость, какая гадость эта ваша заливная рыба!" -  "this aspic fish of yours is a total failure" (a polite way) or more straight forward translation "Jesus, your aspic fish sucks bit time!"

a YouTube link to the clip

- There's also фаршированные яйца (deviled eggs)

- холодец (aspic) One of my favorites growing up. My мама used to make it just right. The best recipe is from Natasha's kitchen:

http://natashaskitchen.com/2013/03/18/ukrainian-aspic-recipe-kholodets/

- Something else that my Mom excels at is мясо по-французски (French Meat Casserole). I looked around the interwebz and the closest recipe to my Moms was one published by Nadia. Here's the link:

http://delightsofculinaria.com/french-meat-casserole

So those are just some of the staples. I am sure I'm missing some. If you catch it, send me and email:)

As you can see Russians are very fond of their traditional foods. The prep work  for the New Years' feast involves your whole family and oftentimes friends cooking together, while watching 1975 film “The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy your Banya!” (Ирония судьбы, или С лёгким паром!). Every...single...year. And we never grow tired of it:)

Boy, this whole New Year traditions thing got me quite exited:) LOL …and sentimental.

For the sake of time we do need to move on to the next topic. But if the above information births a question in your mind, do not hesitate to contact me.


### Is it easy for foreigners to get a job in Russia? 

It's been a long time since my last visit to Russia, so I contacted one of my American friends who is currently living in the country. He says "Short answer is no. You need a work visa, and an invitation from a Russian company that is willing to sponsor you. What about coming and working for a non-profit organization? They are under a lot of scrutiny from the government right now. You can still get "humanitarian" visas I believe. But you would need a sponsor as well."

### Why are Americans the 'bad guys' in modern Russian action movies and games?

Let me answer this question with a question "Why are Russians always the 'bad guys' in almost all American movies? Remember "Crimson Tide", "Red Dawn", "The Hunt for Red October", "Air Force One", "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull", "Red Heat", "Salt", "The Tourist", "The Sum of All Fears". I can go on on on. And it's more than just in action films. There are plenty of animated films that have cute little villains speak broken Russian, like that Blue Russian cat in "Cats & Dogs" or Steve Carell as Gru in Despicable Me. So yeah, it goes both ways. It always did. There's just this strange dance going on between the two countries. Kind of reminds me of the movie "Mr and Mrs Smith":) By the way, a couple of detergent-making companies should consider naming their products "Crimson Tide" and "Red Dawn".

### Good Russian bands/songs?

I get asked this a lot too. Unfortunately, I cannot just give you a list. Music tastes differ so much. One man's 'awesome music' is another man's 'garbage'. I am sure you can google 'Russian traditional music' and get lots of results. For a taste of current Russian artist point your browser to

http://www.last.fm/tag/russian

...and you'll get a pretty good idea. I've been listening to it today and my personal favs are Город 312, Юлия Савичева, МакSим, Zемфира, Би-2, Браво, Кино, Елка, Сергей Лазарев, Света, Жанна Агузарова...

### Are Russian men womanizers like French guys?

First of all, I personally do not have any experience with French men, so I cannot confirm nor deny the assumption that they are womanizers.  As far as Russian men go, I'd say they are gallant towards women. At least within the circle of my family and friends. They will open the door for a woman, they will get up from their seat in the presence of a woman. They will get up and offer a woman their seat on a public transport. I guess some western women take that as flirtation, but for us this behavior is the norm.

### What kinds of transportation are used in Russia?

This question is interesting because the ways of transportation have evolved in the last 15 years dramatically. Growing up in 1980s all I knew on a daily basis was buses and trolleys. Occasional taxi, when my parents felt like splurging. In the early 1980s when I was a kid my Dad bought a car (LADA make, for those who are interested) and that was considered a luxury. When most Russian folks would ride a bus to their 'dachas', Daddy used to take us to dig up our potatoes in style:) Nowadays my understanding is that lots and lots of people own a car in Russia. Problem is there are not enough parking space for all these cars. Certain infrastructures will have to play a game of catching up. And fast!

Trains and airplanes have been on the transportation scene for a while now.  Not much changed there.

### When will the 2014 Winter Olympics be held?

7th February - 23rd February in Sochi (Сочи) Russia.


### What foods do Russians enjoy eating? 

Борщ (borsch) Served either hot or cold. Traditional borsch soup in Russia uses beef, beef stock, beets and cabbage. However, today's recipes have been modified and borsch often contains a variety of different vegetables.

Щи (Shchi) - is a Russian soup with cabbage as the main ingredient. Its primary distinction is its acidic taste.

Картошка (potatoes) - Russians also enjoy a number of dishes made from potatoes, representing the heartier side of Russian cuisine.

Блины (crepes) - Bliny, pronounced "bleeni," with the last vowel sounding like the "i" in "it," appear as a thin pancake, much like a crepe, filled with savory or sweet toppings. Popular Russian variations include sour cream and caviar, preserves, potatoes, mushrooms or meat. Because a blin, singular, has such a light taste on its own, you can fill it with almost anything.

Оладьи (pancakes) - Olady (pronounced [aladyi]) is one of many Russian traditional flour treats, usually served for breakfast. There are classic and simple olady. Classic are made with yeast, and simple are made with baking soda and buttermilk or sour cream.

Пельмени (pelmeni) are dumplings consisting of a filling wrapped in thin, unleavened dough)

Черный хлеб (chorny khleb) - a form of rye bread that's not actually black, has a very sharp flavor and firm texture. It may take a while, but many non-Russians come to love the black bread.)

Пироги (pirogi) - In the Russian frame of mind, everything with a crust counts as a pie, or "pirog." While some Russian pirogi contain fruit, others feature savory fillings like meat, mushrooms and a fresh cheese called quark. Pirozhki, the diminutive form of pirogi, means "small pies."

Окрошка (Okroshka) - is a traditional cold Russian summer soup that doesn't need to be boiled. It is usually made on hot days when nobody wants to move, let alone cook something serious in the kitchen. This soup contains mostly raw vegetables, boiled eggs, and fermented drink kvass.

Квас (kvass) - Kvass is a fermented beverage made from black or regular rye bread.

Каша (kasha) - porridge ranks as a common Russian breakfast meal made from buckwheat or any cereal wheat, barley, oats, millet,rye and cooked in milk or water. At least a thousand years old, kasha is one of the oldest known dishes in Central European and Eastern European cuisine. Grechka (гречка) is by far my favorite. Has been since childhood. My husband and kids love it too now. Buckwheat groats are used and it is cooked like rice. Has awesome nutritional profile ( http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=11 )

dozens of different salads drenched in mayonaise:)


### Do bears still walk along Russian streets?

Um…no

*****

Looks like this is it for the first Q and A session of the podcast. I did my best and hope you enjoyed your time. You might   have even learned something new today. I sure hope so. I know I did while getting this podcast together:)

In closing, I just wanted to thank you all for taking time out of your busy lives to listen to my ramblings. From the feedback you guys leave on iTunes I gathered that the audience of A Spoonful of Russian is a peculiar one. In a good sense of the word:) For one reason or the other Russian language is not considered to be one of the highly sought out foreign languages like Spanish, French, or German.

(go ahead and leave your feedback for my podcast on iTunes. 
Bring the ratings for the Russian language up!)

There is a small yet a well-defined layer of the society that finds the Russian language and the Russian culture of great interest. You are that layer, and I salute you! Your reasons for sticking with a less popular language could be different. So, I leave you, my friends, with this question:

"What is it that draws YOU to the Russian language, history, culture?"


I am looking forward to your answers and will share them in the next Q and A session.

Ways to get your answers over to me:

- Leave a quick voicemail calling: 209-980-7877 (209-980-RUSS)
- For longer question email: spoonfulofrussian@gmail.com
- twitter: @russianspoonful (with hashtag #askNataliaW )
- YouTube: youtube.com/spoonfulofrussian

The above ways of communication are not just for questions. Any kind of feedback is encouraged and appreciated!

Until next time. До встречи! In the meantime, in the words of a famous physicist Richard Feynman "Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible."




2 comments:

Nadia said...

I love this post!!! you got it all covered! and thanks for mentioning me on your podcast!

Natalia Worthington said...

RIght back at ya, Надя. I'll be making that 'French Beef Casserole' next week!