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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yes, we have no tomatoes

We stopped off at the Penta for a quiet ale last week (if you call rollicky German marching tunes quiet) and, bolstered by a few too many, we decided to walk home.


A gentle hour's stroll, nothing could be better in Moscow in summer. Except for the pukh balls which my body has decided to develop a distinct dislike to . . . but if I dose myself with antihistamines and wear a scarf over my face I can avoid the worst of the sneezing. In the older parts of Moscow they fall in such profusion you can almost pretend it's snow. Not that I would wish that on anyone in June!


The real drawcard of walking this way is you get to go past the Dostoyevsky House Museum on Dostoyevsky Street (naturally), and some of the best constructivist architecture on earth.


I'll admit it is an acquired taste -- especially when most are in ruins and you can't but feel sorry for all the people who had to work in them, but I do get a big thrill out of seeing Bus Station No. 7, the worker's buildings on Ulitsa Lesnaya and the Pravda printing presses. It makes you think they did get something right after all. (I exclude of course the metro, parquet floors and long-distance train travel which everyone knows are unrivaled. )


What we didn't count on was getting ravenously hungry. and I mean ravenous. Somehow or other the subject of tomatoes came up. and it was our downfall. Moscow's most impossible zakuski sprang to mind. We halted in our tracks (which was silly because we were actually crossing the Belorussky Vokzal train line at the time) and whispered the ingredients: fresh, fresh juicy tomatoes, thinly sliced; a layer of bocconcini cheese (or mozzarella at a pinch); succulent basil leaves; a hint of pepper, and a generous drizzle of olive oil. Virgin pressed. I pictured the large white platter, the blazing tomatoes, the green basil -- and almost burst into tears. When will I ever taste that miraculous dish again?


On we trudged at a much slower pace, utterly, utterly unhappy.


Petulant foodie! No gumption. After two years of living here, I still haven't learnt the Hansel and Gretel lesson of always stuffing my pockets with emergency treats.


And besides, this is the season of abundance. If we were sensible and had chosen to walk past the Central Market instead, the best tomatoes imaginable would have been there for the choosing. and a lot more fun sliding them into those Stocknimur plastic bags, lobbing them onto the scales and falling over in shock at the price. (I preferred it when the prices were in Finnmarks; I can't count triple figures and was always reassured by knowing they were expensive but not realizing just how much. )


No, the difference between hothouse tomatoes in the West and juicy oozing Georgian, Azeri, grown-at-the-dacha ones is immeasurable. They don't keep beyond a day of course; they haven't been sprayed by a cocktail of pesticides, genetically contrived to be a neat and round and taste like watery red fibre. They are in fact the tomatoes everyone remembers from childhood.


All I need is the shipment of basil and cheese (anyone planning a trip to Italy in the next week, don't hesitate to call) and my life in Moscow is complete.