Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Siberian Slaughter

It seems the Oligarch plays fast and loose with his “no red meat” rule, allowing for the occasional lamb slaughter and shashlik feast. The Nikitas procured two live lambs on Thursday, and the Ghostwriter volunteered to slit their throats. I can’t say I’m sad to have missed the event—I can still hear the pigs screaming from the Spanish matanza I attended two years ago.

One of the lambs before the slaughter

The deposed lambs spent 24 hours marinating, and on Saturday, we got down to roasting them. Everyone pitched in on the lamb preparation, and I ended up getting tasked with “putting garlic in them.” I was given a knife, and shown how to cut slits in the lambs’ sides and fill them with garlic. Since I’m still running with the story that I have a not-entirely-plausible meat allergy, I attacked both carcasses like the most enthusiastic of carnivores. I must have done a decent job because everyone insisted I taste my handiwork. “Maybe this time you won’t be allergic,” suggested Elena, sliding some meat my way. I cursed my invented illness, but declined, and my pescatarianism lived to see another day.

With me outnumbered seven to one by the Russians, the only English spoken was when I delivered a lackluster toast. “Much too short!” they exclaimed. “This is Russia, you must make a speech!” But someone else had already stood up to take their turn, so I was saved from another failed attempt. I did my best to follow the conversation, but I only understood about half of what was being said. Luckily, Russians are more expressive than I initially thought, and I was able to interpret an argument between the Oligarch and the Ghostwriter. What started as a civil discussion about the book they’re working on quickly turned into a heated dispute, culminating in the Ghostwriter coming around the table to scream in the Oligarch’s face. But after a minute of them yelling at full volume, the Oligarch kissed the Ghostwriter on the cheek, and they put their arms around each other, clinked glasses, and took a drink together. If only Putin and Obama could solve all their disagreements that way.

When I noticed that everyone was getting thoroughly soused, I decided to whip out my favorite Russian phrase and told them they were all “пьян как сапожник” (drunk like a cobbler, i.e., excessively drunk). This is literally the only phrase I learned during my first stint in Russia, and it is so outdated that it probably hasn’t been used this side of the Khrushchev era. My accent only added to the ridiculousness, so naturally, it was a huge success. 

After we’d put a dent in the Oligarch’s Italian wine supply, we got into a spirited game of billiards. In an exemplary display of athleticism, I managed to sink the cue ball twice in a row. Nevertheless, Nikita planted a kiss on my cheek and said, “We still love you, Jessica!” and the Oligarch told me I should stay in Russia forever. I think it’s safe to say I’ve officially dethroned Edward Snowden as the most popular American in Russia.

1 comment:

  1. Argue and yell and then make up with a minute later? That sounds about right. Also, are you sure they were in fact fighting? My aunt Regina sounds like she is always angry about something. She yells even when she is not upset. Like she'll yell at me to sit down and have tea. Mike thinks we are constantly fighting but in reality we're just figuring out what tea to serve or something.