. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

When Your Mind Wanders, Come Home to Caviar

I think I have stumbled upon a Russian phenomenon: you've heard of out-of-body experiences, well, how about an out-of-country one? Sit down with your cups of tea and let me explain.


This curious tingling experience has happened to me two times.


The first occurred a few years ago when I had to travel to Yekaterinburg in the depths of winter. Bitterly cold. A cold that only you can understand because you know what it is like to struggle across the tarmac with your weighty luggage in a blizzard, and the stewardess on your Aeroflot plane has just told you it is minus 35 degrees Celsius outside, and she said nothing about the wind.


You get out of the terminal and bargain for a taxi -- falling for that easy trick of asking the driver how many kilometers it is to the city and believing him when he says 30 and pay him accordingly.


Less than 12 minutes later you are at your hotel -- by now seriously cold. And it doesn't surprise you after they have lost your reservation and you do a bit of yelling and screeching that there is no heating either. But the hot water is on, the administrator says, so you part the best of friends and only discover once you reach your room that the hot water is the color of rust and has a most pernicious smell.


The restaurant is always closed. The nights are spent hiding from the amorous Eastern businessman in the opposite room who bangs on your door at odd hours asking you to come out to play. So you go to bed very early with all your clothes on, and a hip flask and a book, and you know you can't move because the artfully piled bedclothes will topple off your shivering form with the least provocation.


I did just two things once my work in Yekaterinburg was done: each day I rugged up and went to visit the outdoor temperature gauge at the end of the street (It did warm up to minus 28 on the third day) and read my way through "A Suitable Boy" by Vikram Seth.


India. I was in India. And my freezing, whimpering self was no longer in the Urals at all, but sweltering on a veranda in a house in Bombay and devouring a lot of refreshing lime elixirs.


And when I finally headed out to the airport and they told me the Moscow flight would be delayed eight hours, I just got out my novel on India and started to read it all over again.


"How was your trip to the Urals?"


"I have no idea, I was in India most of the time."


And today it happened again. My body was riding the metro from Yugo-Zapadnaya up to Savyolovsky Vokzal -- but my mind was in Africa, soaking up the trail of revolutions as reported by Ryszard Kapuscinski in his wonderful book the "Soccer Wars."


"Pack the suitcase. Unpack it, pack it, unpack it, pack it: typewriter, passport, ticket, airport, stairs, airplane, fasten seat belt, take off, unfasten seat belt, flight, rocking, sun, stars, space, hops of strolling stewardess, sleep, clouds, falling engine speed, fasten seat belt, descent, circling, landing, earth, unfasten seat belt, stairs, airport, visa, customs, taxi, streets, houses, people, hotel, key, room, stuffiness, thirst, otherness, foreigness, loneliness, waiting, fatigue, life."


To reel myself back in, I went straight back home to cook the food that tells me where I am. A soothing and simple platter of eggs stuffed with caviar. I opened a half bottle of Kristall vodka, poured out a shot, sat down to my eggs and thought positive Russian thoughts and downed the lot.





Eggs Stuffed with Caviar


6 hard boiled eggs, peeled


1/4 cup sour cream


3 tablespoons snipped chives


2 tablespoons white wine vinegar


1/2 cup black caviar





Slice the eggs lengthwise and remove the egg yolks. Place the yolks in a small bowl and mash them with a fork. Add the sour cream, chives and vinegar, and mix well.


Spoon the egg yolk mixture back into the egg whites and place the caviar decoratively on top.


Refrigerate until ready to serve.