The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

Expats in Moscow satisfy a hunger to learn

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I well remember my first foray into an American supermarket. Dozens of brands of orange juice, offset by a dearth of blackcurrant Ribena.  Cheese in aerosol cans, breakfast pizza bagels…  As for the meat — well, thank goodness everything came shrink-wrapped so I could smuggle it home and investigate its cooking requirements in privacy. Anything was better than revealing my ignorance of American cuts of beef to Stop & Shop’s rather intimidating butcher. It made me want to attend cooking classes – not because I couldn’t cook,  but because unfamiliar ingredients and lack of vital ones limited my usual repertoire. I had to eat what Americans did.

All this confusion took place in a country where the language was approximately the same as at home. How much more difficult must this experience be, then, in a country whose language is strange to you?

Borsch and blini

Victoria Agabalyan understands this problem well. She is the founder and chief executive of Taste of Russia, the first English-language culinary school in Moscow, whose students are primarily foreign tourists and expats.

In order to understand what Europeans expected of cooking classes, she, like American TV chef and one-time expat Julia Child before her, attended culinary school in France.  Consequently, Taste of Russia focuses on teaching traditional cuisine from Russia and the former Soviet Union in a cozy atmosphere. Student Bonnie van der Velde says:

“I cooked borshch and drankini with mushrooms for my mom and her colleagues in the Netherlands, and they liked it very much.”

Although Agabalyan teaches some of the classes herself, she also invites chefs to conduct culinary workshops while she or the school’s administrator translates. She plans to open more schools in other cities in Russia.

Hidden bonus for expats

Similar to my own dealings with strange supermarkets,  expats in Moscow have problems finding their way round the grocery shelves, and attendance at Taste of Russia helps them get over this difficulty. Another student, Angeline Sandmann, says that on her first shopping trip in Moscow she bought sour cream instead of the intended yogurt.

But it could have been worse. Try spraying cheese on top of your ice cream sundae.

Source:  The Moscow Times

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One response to “Expats in Moscow satisfy a hunger to learn

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