What’s new? This section gets smaller every year, as Russia catches up the world. This year, we got grass, mustard, canned kvass, acrylic wall paint, and lots of kinds of spaghetti sauces.
The selection in the supermarkets here is again approaching what is available in more civilized areas. Mustard (with lots of horseradish) is now available for your hotdogs.
Spaghetti and other forms of pasta are finally being accepted. Pasta has always been available here, but none of my family or friends would touch it because it was “cheap prisoner food.” Elvira was insulted the first time I served her my famous spaghetti, Caesar salad and garlic toast meal. She spent 15 minutes scowling and pushing the pasta around the plate with her fork without even tasting it. Now several kinds of pasta sauce are available in every store.
Acrylic paint has been around for awhile, but you had to know where to look for it. The standard paint in Russia is still oil based, glossy, tough, and smelly, smelly, smelly, and always applied with a brush. That may be why very few interior walls are painted here, most are wallpaper. Now, Acrylic paint and rollers are on the counters of every hardware store in town.
The biggest change in the village is GRASS. Of course, it always grew in empty fields and along the road side, but no one wanted a yard full of the useless stuff. The most common decorative plant in the front yards of Premalka was the beautiful potato plant. My first year in Premalka, there was exactly one yard in the village with grass on it – and everyone wondered where the cow was.
No one actually “mowed” grass to make it neat and good looking. It was just cleared like any other weed.
A year ago, Larisa saw a weed whacker for sale at the bazaar, and got an irrational desire to cut the grass around our apartment building and garage. We put off the purchase for months because the gas powered whackers were to heavy for her to handle and she was afraid that she couldn’t get an electric cord all the way out to the yard. When the neighbors heard about her obsession, they, again, concluded that Larisa’s time in America must have driven her mad, but this year she got her dream when we purchased a weed whacker and about 120 feet of extension cord,
A funny thing happened when Larisa tried out the whacker on the space in front of our garage. The garages are in one long building like row houses. After she mowed the grass in front of ours, she started doing the neighbors garages on both sides, but the second garage to the left had already been mowed. It turned out that the owner had purchased a whacker about the same time we did.
When she cleared the grass off of the little yard / playground in front of the building, neighbors began to ask to borrow the weed whacker to mow their little pieces of ground. They may have thought she was crazy, but they liked the results.
Of course, Larisa didn’t cause people to change their minds. It was a trend that had been going on for about a year and which most people didn’t notice until spring happened this year.
The week after we bought the weed whacker from the only vendor that we had seen carry it, I was walking through the men’s section of the bazaar, where men purchase drills and tools and plumbing parts and motor scooters. (and where they wander to avoid standing by while the wife tries on 15 pairs of shoes, 12 blouses, and 10 coats at nine different stalls). Along the newly rebuilt line of shops were a dozen side by side vendors doing a booming business in weed whackers.
The next night, Larisa and I took Sonia for a long walk along one of the few paved roads in the village. Spring has sprung in Premalka and this year, most of the yards had nice, green, trimmed grass in them, and some had hedges and decorative bushes and flower beds. Russians tend to be fancy in their decorating habits, so I predict that yards here will soon be better than in Lake Elsinore.
Larisa says that it’s due to American movies and television shows. Myself, I think that as earnings go up a little, there is more room for pride.
Not all the changes are good. The national soft drink of Russia and most of Eastern Europe has been Kvass. Once it was only a summer drink, but over the past several years commercial producers have made it a year round product.
Kvass is bread beer. It was usually made at home with stale dark bread, raisins, yeast and sugar. During the summer, kvass tank trailers sit by the roadside and dispense plastic glasses of cold Kvass for a few rubles. It tastes exactly like hard cider and since the alcoholic content is less than 1.5%, it is considered a soft drink – and it is very good on a hot day.
Kvass sales came on hard times after every soft drink company in the world came to Russia. American sodas were sold in cans on supermarket shelves, were sweeter, were Modern, and soon had 80% of the market. However, during the past few years, there has been a revival in interest in “Russian” foods and the kvas producers began to offer their product in cans. Coke’s market share in some countries dropped over 20 percent.
Coke struck back. In some places they started to offer Coke brand Kvass and in others, they purchased existing brands. Of course, they had to make modern kvass, so they eliminated the stale bread and raisins and made it with sugar and artificial flavorings. The calorie count went from 30 calories per glass to 129 calories per can and the carbohydrates jumped from 6 grams to 30, but it does almost taste like kvass.
Me, I wait for the kvass trailer and drink the real stuff. Not all modern changes are good.