Thursday, May 24, 2007
Galina, Queen of Caviar
Galina, do you like caviar?
I held out a 3-ounce jar filled with the luminous crimson eggs. Galina was my last chance.
For reasons which now evade me, I had chosen red caviar as the official souvenir for my trip to the States last March. I like to find a souvenir that I think will be a hit and buy it in quantity. Fortunately my splurge on caviar amounted to only five jars but little did I realize the challenge it would be to find takers.
I’ll admit that the taste for caviar is an acquired one – like pickles, gherkins, capers, olives. But there are people who relish caviar, including cousin-in-law, Les, married to cousin Diane in Chicago.
I love caviar. I absolutely love caviar, Les had once told me.
Caviar is quite the delicacy here in Russia. It would be served at the most elegant of occasions on dainty, open-faced sandwiches, for instance. Occasions for which the term hors d’oeuvre is reserved. But that’s Russia.
In Texas, Ohio and Tennessee, things hadn’t gone quite as planned with the caviar. Potential recipients weren’t as thrilled as cousin Les would have been. Not that I would blame them particularly.
There was one notable exception, however: a rather sophisticated class of first graders near Charlotte, North Carolina. I’d expect six year old to be the most finicky of eaters, wouldn’t you?
Well, dear sister-in-law Kelly had arranged for me to visit nephew Christopher’s class to talk about Russia. While we were in the planning stages, I considered my stash of 10 ruble notes as well as my stock of caviar, pondering how to distribute either of those to children. Aha, we hit on it. Why not use the rubles as a reward to any child willing to sample caviar? Amazingly, our idea worked with those children. What sophistication. What élan. All but one was willing to give it a go and not a one of them made a yucky face. I wonder, did they perhaps misunderstand the value of a 10 ruble note? Did I fail to mention that it would take 25 such 10 ruble notes to equal ten dollars? Hard to say. But there went one jar of caviar. Only four to go.
So here I was, packing up to head from Dallas back Russia the next day, and I was stuck with an inventory of caviar that I hadn’t managed to foist on anybody during five weeks in the States.
Galina was my last chance. I was staying with her and her dear parents those last days in Dallas.
Galina, it doesn’t happen, does it, that you like caviar? I asked in the round-about Russian way.
Her face lit up.
Ya loo-BLYU ee-KRA, she said! (I LOVE caviar!)
And so it happened. Galina with a smile wider than the Russian steppe, savoring a delicacy worthy of a princess. And me with a suitcase quite a bit lighter.