Alexander Nazaryan schools you in how to drink vodka in today’s Op-Extra. Luckily for me, this is a lesson I already learned from my girlfriend Helen who studied in Moscow last year. Nazaryan writes about drinking in Brighton Beach:
Here we eat only as Politburo fat-cats could have back in the day, while the rest of the country stood in line for meager provisions: meat-stuffed cabbage leaves swimming in tomato sauce; steaming Ukrainian borscht with dollops of sour cream; veal dumplings, also covered in sour cream; and, of course, pumpernickel bread stacked with pickled herring and onion slivers, chased with a shot of vodka.
Ah, yes. We had just such a feast ourselves a few weeks back (though without the veal dumplings).
You can’t see the piroshki, or the borscht, or the kebabs in this picture, but you get the idea. And to accompany this abundance, you drink shots of vodka, always preceded by a hearty toast.
Nazaryan explains why so few Westerners understand the Russian culture of food and drink:
No less than the Italians or French, Russians treat drinking as part of a complete gastronomic experience, and divorcing the two would be unthinkable for anyone with a modicum of taste. But perhaps because our foods are less sensuous or readily appealing than Mediterranean cuisine ― sour cream is not so sexy, it turns out ― only the bottle lingers in the imagination.
All photos by Helen Stuhr-Rommereim