A life consumed by food. A lifetime consuming food.
Every year, the holidays seem to take me by surprise even as I count the days down till Christmas. Christmas is only 15 days away, that’s just over two weeks. Although I seem to be playing catch up with my blog, at least I’m not without material to write about. Several weeks ago, a Russian Bazaar was organized by the Russian Community Centre in Vancouver, food being the main attraction. The food festivals have been far and few in between now that it has become too cold for outdoor activities, so I was excited to attend the bazaar.
I didn’t plan the afternoon very well, because it was a mad dash from the festival back into Richmond. I attended the festival with my cousins, one of which had scheduled a class to attend immediately after the festival. We all went to South Arm Community Centre for the craft fair in the morning, then drove to Vancouver for the Bazaar.
After finding parking, we power walked our way up 4th Avenue to the Russian Community Centre. The festivities were well underway, and we had to lineup to get into the auditorium. Even though the lineup wasn’t very long, it took a while for us to get in the door. After paying admission, the lineup continued onto the next table to buy tickets for refreshments. With only 15 minutes to spend at the fair, I quickly toured the premises.
There were many tables in the auditorium seated with patrons dining, talking, and enjoying the musical performance on stage. Against the walls were a few tables selling trinkets and knick knacks, but there wasn’t enough time to take a detailed look. After scanning the menu, I decided I would try one of everything on the menu.
After finally getting the tickets, I scurried over to the kitchen window where I could see that the stoves were occupied with large stock pots and sauce pans; it was quite obvious that they were busy. I was amazed by the amount of food that the small kitchen was able to produce with only small stoves to use.
I placed my order at the window with a rather frenzied woman, understandable given the fact that she was probably not used to the stressful atmosphere. When she told me that the pelmenis would take ten minutes which I didn’t have, I asked if she had the frozen ones ready. Although they were indeed ready, I did not have the sufficient ticket amount to purchase them, so she made very clear by barking at me that she DIDN’T HANDLE THE MONEY. I really couldn’t wait for the cooked pelmenis, so we went and paid a little extra for a frozen pelmeni ticket.
After giving the lady the correct ticket, she was able to give me a small bag of frozen dumplings. She also gave the pirojki I ordered, but it was on a plate, which made it a bit awkward for the journey back to the car. “Would it be possible–?” I said as I pointed in the direction of the small take-out containers. ”NO!” she interrupted in her reply. “I can’t???” I said, a little puzzled. I brushed it off, and asked her again, the next time I was able to finish my sentence. She had realized her mistake of speaking too soon and I was able to get my take-out container.
We power walked back to the car, and drove back into Richmond while we dined in the car. My cousin had to eat quickly before she attended her class, but the Russian fare didn’t exactly whet her appetite. So, we had to stop by McDonald’s to make sure she wouldn’t be distracted by a gargling tummy in class.
I had a few bites in the car, but it was so awkward trying to eat while the car was moving that I decided to sit down and enjoy the meal properly at home. At least I was able to cook the pelmeni and eat everything together at home. Of the foods we tried that day, I most enjoyed the sour cream topped borscht. The only borscht I ever tried prior to that day was the Hong Kong rendition of the dish that is served in the HK style cafes. The borscht from the Russian Bazaar had chopped up cabbage and beets, but it was generally quite thin and liquid-y.
The cabbage rolls were served alongside what I am guessing was barley; a whole grain nonetheless. Need I say more? I know I should try to eat more whole grains, but the “barley” tasted quite healthy and was coarse in texture. Almost like beans, which I generally prefer not to eat (except for jelly beans, in which case the popcorn flavoured kind is my favourite). I wish I had the chance to try to cabbage rolls while they were hot, because when they cooled down, they tasted quite tough and bland.
Once before, I ate pelmeni, and I wasn’t able to tell whether the filling was beef or potatoes. This time, I had been told that the filling was made with beef. When I got home, I boiled a small portion and dipped them in white vinegar. The dumpling skins were a bit chewy, which I liked, and the beef filling was tender. I was happy that I had more to keep in the freezer for emergencies.
The dessert was Blinchiki, a Russian cottage cheese crepe. The cottage cheese had that lumpy cellulite look like it always does, but it tasted good! I would say the closest comparison would be a healthy version of cheesecake.
All in all, the Russian Bazaar expanded my knowledge of Russian food. I know Russians have the stereotype of being quite blunt, and I certainly experienced that kind of hospitality, but I don’t believe that the stereotype is necessarily true. The other staff we encountered at the Russian Bazaar were smiling and friendly, quite happy to have us attend really. I will be keeping an eye out for upcoming bazaars, and hopefully then I can judge the food fairly and attentively.