Monday, June 8, 2009

Top 10 Worst Foods I've Had in Moscow

10- Jelly Chocolate Cookie in the Banya: I know, I ate something in the banya. I formally apologize to all of you who I may have offended by my doing so. Normally I would never put something in my mouth that has even flown 50,000 miles over a banya, but I had lost the ability to make good decisions while in there. The cookie tasted exactly like a fat sweaty Russian man covered in chocolate and jelly with maybe a little more sugar.

9- Variety Pizza: I was darn hungry so I stopped by a pizza place that only advertised three things: “Fish pizza,” “Meat filled rolls,” and “Variety Pizza.” Foolishly thinking that variety pizza sounded like the safest bet, I ordered a slice. It was handed out to me on a napkin, which it was stuck to as the crust on the bottom was little more than soggy dough. The top was piled with what looked like chopped up everything found in some drawer in the back. The only topping I identified with 100% accuracy was corn which was cold and looked like leftovers from Egypt’s 7 years of bumper crops during Joseph’s time. And yes, I did just start spontaneously singing every song from “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.”

8- Rock Bread: The bread itself wasn’t bad, although it did have enough oil in it that the moment it was walked into the room my face immediately broke out into a severe case of acne, bad enough to send me all the way back to Ms. Rideout’s 7th grade health class on a day when we talked about our changing bodies. Part way through this bread I felt something hard in my mouth. Spitting it out I discovered it was black and about the size of a pebble. I’m going to call it a rock because that freaks me out much less than anything else it may have been.

7- Potato Roll from Crap Cafeteria: A coworker of mine took me to Crap Cafeteria on my first week in Moscow. For reasons I’ll never be able to justify, I returned several times afterwards for lunch. Crap Cafeteria is dark enough that you can’t see the food very well and nothing is labeled so you basically have to take chances and guess every time. On my first visit I experienced the potato roll which was a soggy piece of bread stuffed with what looked like some slosh scooped out of the bottom of a dumpster with a ladle at a fast-food place called “Shakey’s” just off the highway about an hour south of Manti in a town that got its name from the Bible and still builds bomb shelters.

6- Roll Stuffed with Cabbage: A bob at the orphanage made these for us over the weekend as a thank you for our service. At least that’s what she claims. I didn’t know what it was when I bit into it. Then I saw it. What looked like rotten cabbage scooped up by the same ladle found at Shakey’s in number 7 was spewing out of the center of this thing as though the roll was barfing (which was sort of like foreshadowing, I suppose). Then the smell hit me. My eyes started watering so badly that I felt the government would have been in its right to quarantine the entire village until New Years when everyone could drown away the memory with several liters of vodka.

5- Russian-Shvarma: Angry looking men sit in thousand degree telephone booth sized rooms cutting “meat” off of a rotating mass of something that looks red and layered, then stuff the shavings into a tortilla along with an array of sauces and vegetables that I never knew existed. The Shvarma isn’t bad, as long as you don’t think about what could possibly be in it, until you get to the last few bites where all the sauces have run to the bottom and leave what looks like a red swamp wrapped in soggy tortilla. I always leave feeling badly about myself.

4- Dacha Fish: The family I live with (who I absolutely LOVE) is much braver than I am about a lot of things. Besides going to the banya on a regular basis and relishing in all sorts of odd practices you find there, they occasionally bring home food that I think I used to have nightmares about as a child. One such occasion was about 3 weeks ago when they had a dacha fish that a friend had given to them (a dacha is a small farm out in a little village). I still don’t understand exactly how it was prepared but there was some sort of a vague explanation involving a box, string, power, and fire. We started ripping into it with our bare fingers. It tasted like a fire log that had been used to slaughter an entire community of sick deep sea creatures. I can still smell it on me.

3- Fish Egg Roll: Call it what you want, it’s still fish eggs. I didn’t realize what I was eating until I bit into it and felt the slimy little balls roll all over my tongue and burst open. I swear I heard baby screams. I immediately spit with such force that they took a few teeth out with them and landed somewhere near Rostov. I then, although having just exited the metro and not yet performed my traditional bathing in hand-sanitizer, scraped my tongue with my bare fingernails while bouncing up and down in an absolute daze. When I finally came to I was laying across a bob’s lap in a dark alley telling stories about the army while she stroked my hair. I’m so traumatized that this even exists that I somehow remembered the word for it although I hadn’t used or heard it in four years when Kimberly read it aloud several weeks ago immediately making me a little light-headed. “Ikra”; you just got the chills.

2- Orange Juice Liver from Crap Cafeteria: As previously mentioned, I couldn’t tell what it was because it was too dark inside. What I now imagine was liver looked like pregnant worms soaked in a runny orange colored juice that tasted like a tangerine, salt, and all the moisture squeezed out of the Sharma meat from number 5. It was served cold (although not intentionally) over mashed potatoes. I just shuttered.

1-Goloptsy from crap cafeteria: The only food ever placed in front of me that actually caused my life to flash before my eyes. Goloptsy are tender cabbage rolls filled with rice and meat and sometimes cooked with a touch of tomato paste and garlic. They have been one of my favorite Russian/Ukrainian foods. So naturally I ordered two at crap cafeteria the LAST(!!!) time we were there and plopped myself down at the nearest sticky table. It was difficult to cut through it but I made it somehow. I got the cold goloptsy into my mouth and for one brief moment I no longer knew where I was or what I was doing. My heart started racing and I lost control of all four of my limbs as I instinctively went into panic mode. It was as though my brain completely rebooted with no warning. Then the smell hit me. If some Mormon candle making company only made two kinds of scented candles, the first being “Crap Cafeteria Goloptsy” and the second “Airport Bathroom During Mass Layovers Due to Influenza Outbreak” and I had to buy one, I would choose the latter. Kimberly then went to take a bite. About the time the goloptsy got to mouth level, she shrieked a little and dropped the fork. Then we noticed the bright red meat oozing out of the middle. I swear I saw something move inside. We covered it with a thin napkin, speed-walked out shuttering, and didn’t eat again for 24 straight hours. Acia still gets upset when we talk about it.

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. Sounds like quite the adventures in food! Thanks for sharing, all of my coworkers are wondering what I'm laughing out loud over here about.

  2. Oh my gosh Eli! I'm at work right now trying not to burst out in laughter! I may have to go outside for a while! How stinkin' funny - and DISGUSTING!!!!!

    Well, I now know what to do to lose 20 pounds........go to Moscow. I know that I wouldn't eat a thing! I wouldn't dare! You are very very brave!

    Sooooo funny!!!!!!

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  4. I would soooo be skinny if I lived in Moscow! As always, I loved your colorful description of all of those disgusting foods!

  5. Russia sounds like a great way to lose weight!

  6. Oh my gosh! I think I just threw up in my mouth. Meg and Matt just left for the airport to meet you. So sad in my heart. Please Please teach them the McDonald's song while you're walking around out there. I love what you added to it. Ha ha! Love ya! wish I could come. Tease meg lots. She is just as blonde as I am. Maybe even worse. Peace out

  7. Eli,
    You make me laugh so hard. Did you serve a mission in Russia? I served in Kimberly's mission after she went home. I thoroughly loved it, and your posts bring me back to Russia. Thanks!

  8. Did you do ILP in Russia? I'm trying to figure out why else you would have been over there. Doesn't sound like a mission if you were living with a host family. Yes, there were definitely gross things I ate while over there, but there were also things that I liked way too much! hence the reason I gained a lot-o weight while I was over there. Their bread was my favorite. I never had a rock in any of mine though, so maybe that would have changed things. Fun to read though. Love your blog. I was sent here with the Snuggie post. HILARIOUS!

    1. Sorry for the delay in response! No, I was working for a legal office in Moscow. Had a great time!

  9. Oh my gosh, I'm dying! I did ILP in Russia and one morning my host family left me a little bowl of these small (WHOLE) dried fish for breakfast. Eyes, skin...everything. I opted to go hungry that day.

    This post is fantastic and so hilarious! Although I never ate any of the foods described...It reminded me of my time there.

  10. Who knew that something called Jelly Chocolate Cookie could be so bad? Fair warning: I lost 25 lbs in Palau. They do eat sea turtles, manatees, and fruit bats. But those are tasty compared to sea cucumbers (look like intestines, taste like rubber) and sea urchins (smelly like poopy diapers, one of the few foods that made me puke.) On the positive side, you should try uum (unicorn fish) and kukau (purple taro with coconut milk.)