I might know your secret

Russian pasta dish

I rode on my own yesterday and it was such an enjoyable ride it forcibly reminded me why I love being out on my bike: freedom. I rode one of my regular winter week end routes and was loathe to get back, but I knew my beloved would be expecting me to feed him. Lunch over, I dealt with a few club related matters and in no time at all it was time to leave for dinner.

We had been invited by friends to celebrate Russian Xmas with them and I was much looking forward to it largely because my friend’s such a fantastic cook. I had checked on the internet what Russians typically eat at Xmas and was somewhat dismayed at the unappetising list of courses. Nonetheless, I had every confidence that my friend would serve up a veritable feast.

We left home just after 17:30 giving us enough time to call into my favourite florist for flowers for our hostess. Shock, horror, the florist was exceptionally closed. Undeterred, we headed into Nice to collect the chocolates for the boys (remember, it’s Xmas) and drove along the same road to find a florist. My beloved was champing at the bit to put our destination address into the GPS. I told him not to touch it as the address was already in the GPS’s history. We eventually found a florist, but it’s offerings were very drab, so I had to wait while they made up something more to my taste.

I got back into the car and, as we were now running late, decided to ring my hostess. My hand closed on my mobile in my bag and I fished out my powder compact! I’d left my mobile at home and so had my beloved. No fear, we weren’t too far away. My beloved triumphantly announced that he’d put the address into the GPS and we drove off. Fifteen minutes later we were back where we started: the florist’s. He’d put in the wrong address and erased the correct one. Lucky I have an elephantine memory!

Once reprogrammed, we arrived ten minutes later, but over 45 minutes late. I was not a happy bunny. Luckily our hosts were unconcerned, it hadn’t interfered with their preparations for the feast and were amused by our tales of woe. We exchanged greetings and presents, and sat down to enjoy a glass of my favourite beverage, without which no celebration is complete.

I could tell we were not going to be disappointed, the table was literally groaning under the weight of the selection of appetizers or “zakushi”. It was a mixture of typical Russian dishes and some from Kazakhstan. The stories concerning each dish’s provenance merely added to my enjoyment. We ate Russian salad, beetroot and cabbage salad, herring, blinis with fish caviar, horse sausage and horse milk cheese, salad in aspic, cabbage and potato pirozhki. I tucked in with evident enjoyment and we toasted the feast with vodka.

Next up was borsch, more of a beef and vegetable broth than a purely beetroot soup. Again, it was delicious. The main course was Russian pasta “Pelmeni” served with sour cream and tomato sauce. More gelatinous than Italian pasta and therefore more akin to Chinese dim sum. The question now weighing heavily on everyone’s mind was whether we still had enough  room for “zaedkami” – dessert. After a brief respite, we were tempted by a dazzling array of goodies including Kazakh chocolate which I admit can more than hold its own with anything produced in Belgium or Switzerland. Finally, we all conceded defeat. It had been a truly delicious, and interesting, feast and, after the best part of five hours at the table, it was time to go home.

We woke late this morning and rode over to the pointage at the offices of Nice Matin. We’d missed the club and decided to go for a ride on our own. We were soon joined by a handful of riders from another club who normally leave me standing – but not today. I was in epic form and it got me thinking. Was this the result of my overindulgence the night before? Had I stumbled onto the secret of the strength of riders from Eastern Europe? Was this what set them apart from their Continental counterparts?

2 Comments on “I might know your secret

  1. It must be the cabbage! You were lucky not to wake up with a vicious hangover – my experiences of Russian / Azerbaijani dining are having to toast “Na zdorovye” and drink a shot of ‘vodka’ before speaking. Great fun but probably not the Russian secret to cycling success!


    • No, it wasn’t the cabbage, though I do know what you mean.
      We all (wisely) moderated our vodka intakes so as not to sabotage our usual Sunday morning rides.
      I am going to be quizzing one or two riders from the former USSR on the secrets of their success on http://www.velovoices.com in the coming months. Stay tuned.


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