Kitchen wisdom April 19, 2008Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
As for any son of the Soviet Union, accidental or otherwise, and my late-adopted cultural heritage is very much accidental, the kitchen has become the centre of my world. Admittedly I don’t have to turn on the kitchen taps before I’m unafraid enough to set the world to rights, but, taps or no taps, and with my captive audience of one suitably silent true son of the Soviet Union, I have now taken to middle-aged kitchen rants.
Western men of a certain age are more than happy to talk bollocks too, of course, given half the chance, but if you really want a prime example of someone holding forth, preferably on a subject they don’t necessarily know that much about, you need to get yourself a time machine and fly off to the past. To the Soviet Union. Though post-Soviet Russia will do. Or my kitchen.
This type of ranter is well represented in Dostoevsky novels, proving that even the might of the Soviet Union was not enough to quell the irrepressible Russian soul. I like Dostoevsky as much as the next wanker, but I would always groan in displeasure, and put the book down for three months until I’d forgotten my objection, when a male character would inevitably say, “This is the way I see the world and here, let me talk about it in a 75-page monologue.” Or, using an alternative literary rant device, “This is the way I see the world and here, I just happen to have written it down and someone can now read it out in a 75-page monologue while I die noisily of tuberculosis in the corner.”
Though fair play to Dosters because anyone who’s been in a Soviet or post-Soviet kitchen knows that the characterisation is perfect. The type exists. Male, of course. Ideally with the first flush of youth well behind him. Has reached the serious-dressing stage. You can’t rant in jeans. A collar. A jacket. Preferably a well-rounded belly. Principled on all matters and with strict lifestyle choices (this is where I fail the Soviet test). “Shall we knock back a quick 50g (to help me bear the remaining 25 minutes of your rant on tea), Volodia?” you might say to a ranting Vladimir who happens to have turned up in your kitchen on a wintry Tuesday evening to hold forth on tea. “Vot? Vodka? On Tuesday? I nyevyer dreenk vodka on Tuesday. Vodka make you impotyent. Beeb, khow you kyen dreenk vodka on Tuesday? Ektuelly, I karrently writink book on vodka and impotyence. Let me tsyell you about it for 35 minutes. By ze vey, I not say you kyen call me Volodia yet. Please call me Vladimir Poligrafovich.”
A good Russian rant can be entertaining, though the length can be exhausting. The subjects can be mundane, e.g. tea, or trying, e.g. why foreigners are cunts. Jews are good Russian rant-grist. From how they don’t exist. I’ve been at that rant. To how they don’t eat meat, which is why they’re weak, which rant took place in the very room I type from, by an exiled Soviet ranter, and which has been mentioned before, who went on to rant further that the Estonians and Ukrainians were also cunts. And then took me to the map of Europe on the hall wall and, making a compass of his thumb and index finger, showed me how far into Russia NATO missiles would reach when NATO, inevitably, started bombing Russia any second now. (Coincidentally, the range was the exact same distance as the largest part-circle his thumb-and-index-finger compass could draw.)
And by the queerest twists of geopolitical and romantic fates, I have become the first queer, post-Soviet, non-Soviet ranter. It’s the Russian passing his unwanted rant genes on to me, while I have generously donated my empty western soul to him. While I rant, he online-shops. While I hold forth on Ukraine being further along the road to democracy and manage to blame the (considering-itself-)Russian population in eastern Ukraine for all the country’s ills, the Russian smiles a smile combining pity and magnanimity in superiority and thinks of holidays. While I spout that theists should stop thinking they’re important enough to deserve a god and that we’re just fleas. That we’re no different from fleas. No, we don’t deserve a god – drink can feature on these occasions – the Russian will briefly be shuddered awake by the more preposterous aspects of my russorant – “What? Actual fleas?” – before returning to an IKEA-reverie.
But I’m thinking if I can just youngen up my wardrobe there might be hope for me yet.