During my bout of heinous food poisoning and slow recovery, I had a chance to indulge in countless hours of television. The TV set in our shabby flat flips through a range of numbered channel, well into the 40s, but there are only two watchable channels that are repeated several times and buffered by a few channels of static.
I don’t speak barely any Russian (yet) so the benefit of watching so much TV was just to pass the time in a more stimulating manner than staring at the concrete ceiling. I had convinced myself that it would also help acclimate my hearing to Russian sounds, but thinking this way usually just made me frustrated. “This is obviously not helping me learn Russian, let’s just watch some Real Housewives already.”
Not possible. There are no American TV shows on my two Russian channels and the one weekly American movie is overdubbed. After decades of isolation from American pop culture, which, in my experience, has penetrated almost every other corner of the world, Krygyzstan (and I’m guessing other former Soviet Union states) can only turn to Mother Russia for entertainment.
Lucky me, I found a cooking show.
…well, not exactly a “cooking” show, but a show that featured the preparation of food.
I can’t tell for sure what the name of the show is, but it’s either “Seedk” or “Smak”. Any readers with a more advanced knowledge of Russian typography, please feel free to correct me.
Anyway, this show featured two men, a host and a guest. The two of them lightly bantered throughout the show in hushed, mumbled voices and giggled nervously while they tried to extend their conversation over an entire program. I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but it seemed awkward and forced.
The program focused on smoothies, pronounced “smoo-sees”. This is what I meant when I wrote that the show wasn’t really about cooking, per se. The two men spent the majority of the time chopping fruit, blending fruit, and figuring out the pronunciation of the various drinks they were preparing.
First the boys made a “mojito”. This show’s version of a mojito (pronounced “moe-KHEE-toe” with a heavy, hacking sound on the middle syllable) consisted of pieces of banana, kiwi, strawberry, and mint blended together with some ice. As the two men fiddled with adding extra strawberry pieces on top for garnish and tried to out-hack each other’s pronunciation, I was stunned.
I mean, this show made Sandra Lee look like a five-star chef. (minus the alcohol, because Aunt Sandy would never forget the alcohol!)
Next up was a little concoction they called “coco-peach”. From what I could observe, this is how you make it:
First, take a coconut. Roll it around. Talk about it with your guest. Attempt to skewer through the tough outer shell with a knife. Decide that’s a bad idea and smack it with a meat tenderizer. When only half the shell comes off, distract the audience by engaging in some tired small talk with your guest. Remember that you need to peel the rest of the coconut. Whack it again and peel off the shell fragments. Cut it in half and give it to your guest to chop. Both of you cut slowly and nervously as if it were the first time you ever had to do such a chore. When the pieces as big as your palm, throw them in the blender. Gather some peaches and roughly chop with the same uncertainty. Add peach pieces to the blender. Press some random buttons on the blender and make a nervous joke to your friend. Shake the blender a bit when you realize some pieces are not blending properly. Smile. Turn off blender and pour contents into one cup. Realize that you have a friend and scoop some of that into a second cup. Taste concoction… make a weird face upon realizing that gritty, unsweetened coconut does not add the most pleasing texture to a smoo-see.
The last smoo-see (due to their difficult preparation, only three were made) was made with a melon and came out a sick gray color.
And I don’t mean sick as in, “Did you see those shoes? Those heels were sick!” I mean sick as in blech.
A friend who studied abroad in Russia explained to Farrell that Russia lacks a developed restaurant culture and I wonder if the same applies to their cooking shows as well. It has most of the correct elements: a moderately attractive and pseudo-entertaining host, accessible and somewhat appetizing dishes, and a modern kitchen setting.
It’s missing something, though. Maybe a working oven?
Who knows. Farrell and I started official Russian classes today (graduating from the Kirstin and Farrell School of Incorrectly Deciphering Cyrillic Letters), so I bet we’re only a few short months away from understanding all of our new favorite shows, right?