Back in the kitchen again…

Borscht verde, otherwise known as fresh from the garden veggie soup

So here I sit in sick bay while all the rest of my compatriots travel on to their new sites and volunteer service, taking their first steps into their new lives.  I have been watching FB all day, tracing their footsteps through their new villages, comparing the size of their bedrooms with my own, lusting after the masa (feasts) wherein their new host families celebrate their coming by spreading a multitude of wonderful dishes across the table.  Hey wait a minute, I think.  I have a kitchen…and some veggies from Nina’s garden…and some odds and ends in the cupboards left by former inhabitants of this den.  I can cook something…

One of the less positive effects of Pre-Service Training and living with a host family is that it slammed the trainee back into the experience of childhood again.  We relied on the Peace Corps staff or our host mother or our Language Training Instructors or even the M26’s and M25’s to script our lives for us.  Almost every waking moment was defined by language lessons, tech training, homework, studying, self-directed activities or field trips or traveling back and forth to hub site or cluster site.

When I knew I would be here, on my own, at TDY for a week or so, I actually felt a bit of trepidation.  No Nina to prepare my healthy meals?  How will I eat?  On Friday, I ventured into Everest, a pseudo-supermarket (everything is almost, in Moldova,) like a 10 year old given the responsibility of cooking some dinner for her siblings while mom worked late. All the labels are in Russian, so one must have a pretty good sense of what the picture on the packet might be in order to feel confident in making a purchase decision.  The produce section was sad and empty (most everyone grows their own or buys in the piața.) There was an entire shelf of white rice (no brown) and pasta (all semolina,) supplemented by hrisca and lentils.  They do like their carbs here.  I ended up with a carton of mushrooms (haven’t had those since I left the States,) some Activa yogurt (same label as the States,) a miniature loaf of black bread and some carbonated water.  Yea for me.

Today, after seeing all those masa spreads, I remembered the bag of veggies that Nina pressed on me as I was leaving Friday morning. Well damn, I don’t want another yogurt and I polished off the jar of peanut butter someone left in the cupboard (sweet!) for breakfast.  It was strange at first, peeling the onions, mincing the garlic, chopping the dovlece (like a squash, only seedless…even sweeter!)  Like maybe I wasn’t old enough to be handling sharp knives. I felt Nina hovering over my left shoulder, clucking disapprovingly. While she made some good, healthy soups, they tended to taste very much the same.  She had a limited repertoire of herbs – parsley and dill – and used only salt and pepper to flavor.  And, in characteristic Moldovan style, one did things the same each and every time.  She cooks the way her mother taught her, the way her mother taught her before that.  Nothing changes. Tradition holds.

Now that I was on my own, I went through the cupboards and pulled out mysterious packets of Russian-labeled spices and had at it with impulsive America style.  Then I threw in some habanero sauce I brought from home – this was verboten in Nina’s house as it was way too hot for any Moldovan who tried it (mild by our standards, mild!)  With a small handful of egg noodles to thicken it up, I had myself an aromatic concoction burbling on the burner in no time.

Let me tell you, the succulence of vine-ripened tomatoes and the sharpness of fresh plucked garlic make for amazing soups – I surprised myself!  I had two bowls.  But it wasn’t just my body being nourished: I felt like I had slipped right back into my age-old soul, wielding that knife on the chopping board.  I’m back in the kitchen again, self-sufficient, creative, and all grown up again!  Thank you, dear Hestia! And let me keep enjoying while the vegetables are ripening…

6 thoughts on “Back in the kitchen again…

  1. It is amazing how our perception of the smallest things change as we see the world anew from being thrust out of comfort zone… And I wonder if your discoveries find you appreciating simple things in a new way? And what might this new perspective do to your view of us comfortable Americans?…..I can’t wait to hear of the continuation…


  2. Hi Yvette!
    I have been following your blog and enjoying your testimonials and experiential learnings
    Why are you in sick bay? The gang is getting together on aug 18 for a beach day, I know how you dislike the beach! We are loving our hb summertime


  3. I know how you feel – even though I am in the same country as I have always been – there are days that tripedation and fear grab hold of me and I doubt I am able to do things I have done for years. Then something inside bubbles up and propels me – I know I am capable and can do anything I set my mind to (sometimes it works, other times I flounder for a day or 2). Good for you Yvette – I am sure the meal taster all the better because of the internal obsticles you overcame! Also, as Sister Sue said, why are you in stick bay?


    1. The strange, strange link between you and Moldova intesifies (remember it was you that set me here in these strange land.) Today I walked into the kitchen and witnessed Katie, the M26 whose staying here in TDY, making a cheese in cylinder: a hunk of cheese melted in oil in a frying pan on a square of lavash and then rolled into a cylinder and consumed.


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