Friday, April 1, 2011

Meat Jello and Fairy Tales

My fiancée's daughter came home from a week of vacation with her grandparents today and brought with her a volume of Ukrainian folk tales in English. I enjoy folk tales because they speak to fundamental differences in values and attitudes between cultures, so I was excited to read some. And, I realized, my fiancee's daughter will know some of these tales. So we sqt down together--her with a book of folk tales in Russian and me with the same stories in English--and began to read to each other.

I learned some new words, as did Nika, and we had a great time sharing this story in two languages. I missed her this week. Her joy, energy, and pleasure in sharing with me is always refreshing. It's not so different from spending time with my own kids, even though they're much older.

But that wasn't the only cultural experience of the evening.

Next was dinner, and Nika was excited to share with me a traditional Ukrainian dish called holodnya, or cold. Tis didn't go so well. What exactly is holodnya? The best I can explain it, this is meat jello. Apparently it is very difficult to make--you have to extract the gelatin from a chicken and then congealed it with beef to form a gelatinous mass, eaten cold.

I took one bite and almost threw up three times. It is a special dish here, a treat, but it is so beyond my palate that I couldn't eat more than a single bite. And that made me feel bad--Nika helped her grandmother cook this special meal, and I truly couldn't eat it.

The saving grace was Nika's spirit. She laughed at me and then went on to do a show for me and Olya...Michael Jackson, complete with a moonwalk, a teacher, an actress, and an angry woman. It was funny and sweet. And then they both went on to beat me in Yahtzee.

All in all, a good night. But I'm a little hungry.