My food today has been porridge, mushroom soup and bread and fish. I was actually excited about eating all of these – am I past the point of no return?! I think I’ve been here for too long…
Mushroom soup is the thing I want to talk about today. Or rather, mushrooms.
Russians LOVE mushrooms.
One of the first things we learnt in our first year of university was about the seasons and “In autumn, I like to go into the forest to collect and marinate mushrooms”. I’m not even kidding. Our teacher thought this was completely normal which I think we should have taken with a pinch of salt. (She was great by the way, driest sense of humour ever, no nonsense – but incredibly nice!)
It is true though – when you come to Russia in autumn, there are mushrooms everywhere in the shops and in restaurant. In our local jacket potato restaurant, mushrooms are being marketed as “the taste of the season”. There is even to be a Mushroom Festival to be held in the park over the road in a couple of weeks’ time. You’ll have to drag me away from it, quite frankly.
Mushrooms are not like you come across in England – they’re not white, for starters, more a chestnut colour. They have an amazing meaty texture to them, rather like cepes/porcini and they are absolutely full of flavour. I would become a vegetarian if it gave me the excuse of eating more mushrooms, they’re so good. The Russian seasonal pastime of mushroom collecting is just as fundamentally a part of autumn as collecting conkers is in the UK.
Oh, and we saw a red mushroom with white spots growing in the Peterhof. Turns out it was actually a magic mushroom. (This is the part where I make my 'incredulous-but-nothing-shocks-me-any-more' face). Oh and I should credit my much beloved room mate for this picture - my camera had died by this point and her photos are on my computer. Cheeky cheeky.
I saw something amazing today – a family making crowns of autumn leaves in the park. All you need is a needle and thread and a huge stack of golden sycamore leaves and you can create the most amazing mane-like headpiece. I hope one day in 20 years’ time I will be able to do that with my kids/friends’ kids. It was a magical piece of childhood that I felt privileged to witness. I really wish I'd been able to get a photo, but being the amazingly clever person I am, I didn't have my camera on me. Doh.
Today I made friends with a Kyrgyz man I could not understand and successfully gave a man directions (in Russian) to the Griboedeva Canal – which I actually knew the location of.