Thursday, January 3, 2013

January 3, 2013

Willoughby called from around the corner just as I was finishing my toast with Nutella. She couldn’t figure out the combination to the gate, so I hurried up and showed her how to do it for future reference. She was impressed with the apartment, and except for the lack of electrical outlets in the kitchen, found no fault at all with it. We headed to the Osh bazaar and ran into Brice, the Fulbrighter, on the way to boarding the marshrutka.

He claimed not to have read my email asking for his participation in the upcoming series of workshops, nothing new there, but said he’d be in Turkey meeting his girlfriend at that time. He happens to live just across the street from my building. Small world, indeed.

Willoughby had a long list of spices and seasonings she wanted to get along with table knives as most Kyrgyz use no knives when eating and thus her landlady hadn’t supplied any. When I thought of it, I realized I didn’t have any either, but hoped my landlady would buy me a set to match the silverware already in the apartment. I bought cumin seeds and the right variety of rice for the plov along with the shredded carrots and herbs for the Tajik salad to go with it. At one of the spice stalls, I spied what looked like cinnamon bark and couldn't believe my luck when the vendor confirmed it was cinnamon.

                             Unusually-shaped mushrooms just arriving at the Osh bazaar

I found a plastic pail to keep hot soapy water in the sink to soak the dishes, an oven mitten and a pot holder, but no small towel with a hook to hang from the small sink in the toilet room. Willoughby bought a towel and I found the felt purse I was looking for to use when I go out in the evenings and don’t want to carry my large handbag.

We found the right marshrutka to get back to my place and as both of us were hungry, we stopped at the Vanilla Sky coffeehouse across the street marveling at its glass cases full of tempting desserts, the high polished wood of its floors, tables and chairs and luxuriating in the fact that they had a separate non-smoking room. The menu was entirely in Russian, but someone had been ingenious enough to offer photos of the different dishes to help those of us unable to read Cyrillic. I settled for a bowl of soup while Willoughby went for coffee and cake.

My soup came in a bowl not bigger than the coffee cup I have in my apartment and looked nothing like the item in the photo while having no discernible flavor at all. Willoughby’s cake had little dough but lots of layers filled with cream or something resembling it. I made a mental note to only go there for coffee and dessert in the future. On my way out, I noticed they still had their Christmas tree up and Willoughby commented that most likely it'd be up until January 7 when the Orthodox Christmas is celebrated here.

The plov preparations started immediately and I returned Douglass’ call to ask him to come around three. The Tajik salad was a bust because the cucumbers had frozen in the fridge and lost all of its crunchy texture and the tomatoes were beyond ripe. I had no salt or ground black pepper for the salad dressing either. I called Douglas and he agreed to bring a bit of each from his apartment.

I have to say this plov was the best one I’ve ever made. It might be because I made half of the recipe I usually cook since I don’t really have much room to store leftovers in the fridge. Both Douglas and Willoughby had seconds and I still had a small portion leftover for tomorrow. I hope to recreate this recipe exactly as I did today for it was beyond delicious.

My guests left together when it began to grow darker outside. Douglas reminded me to stop bellyaching about the minor flaws in the apartment as he felt the place was perfect and wished he could live in such a flat instead of sharing an apartment out in the boonies.

I spent the rest of the evening searching for additional listening activities I could incorporate into the workshop next week. I then read a bit more of the book “The Giver” but wasn’t able to finish it to return it to Forum tomorrow.

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