17. Russian restaurants and Russian food
That Thursday night we went out for the most romantic supper imaginable. Elena had chosen one of the most exquisite restaurants in Ekaterinburg to spend our evening of wining and dining together. It was a beautiful place with excellent food. The menu choices were endless although I think none of us cared to read them all. I don’t even remember what we were eating – some salads, some meat, some deserts – I remember the food was really good, but our conversation was so much better. We were so involved in our own world of trying to know each other better that we never used the opportunity to dance. The night sped past in a flash, but a very memorable flash.
That night Elena told me that she had expected me only the following day, the Friday. She also had planned well in advance for these days of my visit. She had intended to meet me at the airport and carefully thought about which clothes and hairstyle she would wear for this special occasion. She was so surprised when I called her the day before I was supposed to arrive! That was why she was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. In Russia jeans and a T-shirt are not considered as proper clothes and no woman would wear such an outfit on her first date. Elena also told me that if a woman were dressed in jeans and T-shirt, guys would not be interested in her. That is why she dressed that way – because she did not want guys approaching her; but for me she looked very attractive, her jeans fitted her very well! None of us was sure where the mix up with arrival dates originated. I knew that I had changed my travel arrangements and I could have informed Elena differently, or one of us simply made a mistake with the dates. Elena and me had a mutual feeling that my early appearance did not do any damage.
For the rest of my stay, the most of the evenings we went out for supper together except for the Sunday after I was introduced to Elena’s family. That night Elena had proved her cooking skills and I must admit she passed the test with flying colors. Now after a few years of our marriage I can say that Elena did not practice for days or weeks to prepare that meal. She has a natural talent in cooking and has proven that she is not only intelligent but multi talented.
Another memorable supper was the last night before my departure. We went to another top class restaurant. After we had placed our order and while we were enjoying our drinks the electricity went off. After a while of enjoying our time together in candlelight, the chef told us that he would not be able to prepare our meal. We had our starters already and decided to finish our wine and then leave, but a few minutes later he came back and told us that he would be able to prepare our meal on a gas stove. We were in no hurry because we were finalizing our future plans before my departure the next morning, so we approved. There were only of us two in the whole restaurant, sitting in the darkness, and this candlelight supper I will remember forever.
I think if I was not a foreigner, they would probably have asked us to leave but Russians like foreigners and have high respect for them, so the whole team was serving the two of us. During my trip I encountered the same attention a few times. If somebody says to you that Russian people don’t like foreigners or that you could be unsafe there, do not believe them. In fact, Russians treat foreigners in a very special way. “The rule of hospitality” is very important for Russian people, and a guest is entitled to everything the best. They will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable.
During my visit to Elena, it was the only time that I was really wining and dining during my trip. The rest of the time I lived of fast food because it was easier to order and I would not have language problems. I must say that I enjoyed the Russian food. Apart from the fact that it was well prepared, it was very tasteful. The restaurants were neat and clean with very nice atmosphere. In the better class restaurants the menus had an enormous variety from which to choose. It was smaller portions than I was used to, but people in Russia often order more then one starter because of the smaller portions but also to enjoy more than one taste. Most of the starters are salads. The big variety continues with the main dishes. There were too many to choose from, so in my weeks of wining and dining I did not get tired of the taste or reached the point that I could not decide what to eat. The wide variety of choices continued with wines. Most wines are imported. Beer is a very popular drink in Russia these days. Black bread forms an integral part of the Russian meal. I am not a sweets fan but for the one with the sweet tooth it will also be a never-ending list and as tasteful as the rest of the food.
Without knowledge of Russian, it can be a problem to order food. I was fortunate to be with the love of my life that made eating out an unforgettable experience. If you are not well versed in Russian, my advice would be to hire an interpreter but you must book him or her in advance. I suspect that if the interpreter is an attractive woman, you will enjoy it a bit more. I know some people that went to one the former USSR countries to meet women and have hired an interpreter that has made the visit a memorable experience. The interpreter can also be a tour guide. I had hired interpreters in many places during my visit. The first one was in Moscow as I described earlier. I am also aware of many instances where the guys have fallen in love with an interpreter or tour guide and not with the women they were meant to meet. So having an interpreter can add to your options!
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