My peanut butter is chocolate.
Explanation: our professor told us before we came to decide what our “peanut butter” was, meaning what item we would really want and would remind us of home in Russia but we wouldn’t be able to buy there. For a lot of people, it’s peanut butter. For me, it’s not. (If anyone reading this does not know, I’m allergic to peanuts and all tree nuts, which I’ve been told is generally tragic, but only makes me sad because I can’t have hazelnut chocolate on a regular basis which is really delicious.) When I came to Russia, I packed a small bags of Rolos, two milk chocolate Dove bars, and two bags of Dove Bliss chocolates (which really are as good as they sound) to act as my peanut butter (and a giant ziploc baggy of glodfish crackers, but that is not important to this post). I’ve learned from experience that it can be difficult to find European chocolate without any traces of nuts (especially hazelnuts). Really, that Dove chocolate helped a lot in the…adjusting phase…of the first two weeks. But I also have this goal to find delicious European/Russian chocolate to bring home. Cue story 1:
Last week, my host mother Irina told me about this little local candy store in the city. It’s across the street from the grocery store where we usually buy lunch (another story about that store in a minute), and I’ve been there three times in the past week. The first time I asked the candy counter lady for their most delicious chocolate candy without nuts. I got a handful of little dark chocolate eggs with colored, flavored (I always want to spell this word like the British…) centers. One of the three flavors is strawberry (I think), and I have no idea about the others. One might be lilac, but that might just be a placebo flavor granted by the light purple color. The other one is green, so I don’t even know what to think about it. Regardless of the official flavors, they are delicious, and I plan to buy a kilogram (which sounds like a good amount, even though I don’t know exactly how much chocolate this is) of them to bring home and pop them into the water bottles that I also want to pack home to save space. (I have a collection of about a dozen 1.5 liter water bottles which are rather thin and tall and convenient. The chocolates just barely fit inside them. What a way to save space!) Yesterday, I asked the candy counter lady to try a handful of nutless chocolates, which took more explaining than I thought it would. I ended up with 5 different sorts and tried them with varying results:
1. I expected the first one I tried to be aerated chocolate (based on the bouncy hand motions the candy counter lady made), but it was actually thinly coated marshmallow (which makes a lot more sense thinking back on the hand motions). That is, I think it was marshmallow, still not entirely sure. It may have been some sort of cheese; one never can tell with Russian cheese. It wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great either.
2. The second one I tried was creme brule flavored. The chocolate tasted a little too cooked for me, but it’s Becky’s favorite chocolate, so it must just be me.
3. The third one I tried had a white “soft iris” center and was generally confusing.
4. This one was very rich, cocoa-dusted chocolate that Kaye loved but, alas, that I turned out to be allergic to. I think it was the whey powder.
5. This was a cognac truffle, which I’m pretty sure means it had a small amount of alcohol in it, which is a shame because it was actually my favorite taste (very filling, sophisticated, rich, and a little bitter), which is also a shame because I was allergic to this one too. Also probably the whey powder. It was almost worth it, since it was a very slight reaction. Actually, it might be a good diet plan: one truffle around lunch time every day, which will make me effectively lose my appetite until dinnertime! (Totally joking; I could never actually skip lunch intentionally.)
I’ll probably go back to the store late this week and ask for another round of trial chocolates (I’m a glutton for punishment I guess). I hope the candy counter people aren’t annoyed with me yet for only buying a few of many kinds of chocolates.
And now for the promised grocery store story, also dealing with chocolate, which is a nice segue, don’t you think? I found this absolutely divine brand of dark-chocolate glazed dried fruits. I’ve tried cherry and mango, and they make my previous chocolate quest failures worth it. I’ll be bringing a bunch of these back to the states too. Also, at this store today I tried buckwheat, macaroni, and salad for lunch, being rather tired of cheese and bread. I have also decided that Russian mayonnaise is better than whatever I’ve been eating in the states. And I successfully asked a store manager today (in Russian) if the store had small packets of mayonnaise, and I didn’t even have to repeat myself. Really, it’s all about the small victories. Like my own, hard-earned mayonnaise for my salad at lunch.
Tomorrow we’re taking a trip to a little village call Cemonov (or something like that; my Russian-English transliteration skills are somewhat confused). We spent our culture class today discussing the artisans that live there and their special artistic styles. Especially their beautiful dishware. Especially their spoons. I’m super excited! You probably gathered from my first post (sub-titled “Salmon and Spoons”) that spoons are kind of a big deal. In fact, I just bought a wooden spoon for my husband’s birthday on Sunday that he can cook with. I hope to find a set of beautiful, Russian decorated spoons. Pictures to come soon! Until then, here’s a hilarious random picture of a t-shirt James found while second-hand shopping with Kaye and I.
In case you can’t read it, the bottom says “I can see Russia from my igloo.” And that’s Sarah Palin. In Russia. Isn’t that just the greatest?
Also, here’s me with an owl.