Friday, 23 September 2011

Seasonal changes; Autumn in Moscow (Part 1)

So, it's Autumn in Moscow. I know this for a number of reasons, the first of which is that it's tipping with rain outside and only 15degC. Mind you, this on it's own is not conclusive proof because I remember similar conditions 2 years ago in August when we visited with the Boys to convince them that this would be a wonderful place to live...

So supporting evidence is needed, and I present that as follows;

The mushroomers are out in force. Russians go crazy for mushrooms, it seems, and on any trip out of the city at this time of year you will pass a number of home-made stalls on the edge of the road with (usually) babushka's perching on upturned plastic crates, behind a plastic sheet on the ground covered with interesting looking fungi. I'm not a great mushroom lover myself (can't really be doing with the texture, I'm afraid), but Muscovites will happily load their car up with their family, some charcoal, some shashlik and some beer and trek out to the forest to make a day of their foraging expedition for nature's bounty. I'ld quite like to try it, actually - the trip out, that is - just as long as I don't have to eat the results.

The supermarkets are full of empty jars and lids. This is not only for the home-prepared stewed fruit, jams and vegetables from the garden at the family dacha which are brought back into the city in triumph, crammed into the back of the car, as the weather turns colder. The jars are also used to store the mushrooms mentioned above, which are often preserved salted. Note: if you are not keen on mushroom's texture in the first place it ranks somewhere in the 7th circle of culinary hell when you are presented proudly with a dish of salted mushrooms prepared to an old family recipe by your host, and which you really feel you must try or cause offence.

*shudders theatrically*

The traffic gets significantly worse. This morning it was an 8-lane day as I joined the highway. 8 lanes where 3 are marked, that is. Gosh, I just can't wait for the first snow in a few weeks time when no-one has their winter tyres on yet and things get even jollier...

The new parents at the school start to lose the 'rabbit in the headlights' look that they had in the first few weeks of term when they would arrive to drop their children off, having battled the traffic all the way across town** and made the mistake of thinking that they were driving in an environment where 'normal' traffic rules apply. They don't. Luckily it only takes 4 weeks to get used to that, and in any case most of these expats rarely sit behind the wheel of a car, letting their driver take the strain...

And finally, I know it is Autumn because I have already seen Russian children dressed up in snowpants and hats. In September. At 15 degC. I mean, I know it pays to be prepared, but...

** This is invariably the result of allowing their working partner / working partner's HR department to choose their accommodation on an earlier - solo - visit to Moscow, when proximity to the office was ranked more highly than proximity to the children's school. Which is all very well until you realise that whilst one member of the family only has a ten minute commute, everyone else is sitting in the car for around 3 hours a day...


  1. Hmmm..sounds quite a bit like Seoul, except we had all the rain in the Summer. Insane traffic? Check. Heavily bundled children? Check. (of course, it's 24 C here, so they're only wearing jackets, long pants, and hats - no winter coats for a week or two)No mushrooms, though: here, everyone's getting ready to put up a few vats of kimchi.
    And thank GOD the international schools here all provide transportation....

  2. Wow... you do feel strongly about the texture of the mushrooms, just as strongly as my Canadian/British husband does.
    Maybe it's time I eased up on him then. Moscow is my hometown and you are right - not liking mushrooms to us is bordering on sacrilege.
    In terms of bundling up - guilty as charged. At least my mother is. It sounds like we are the potty ones after all.
    How do you like the Russian version of sauerkraut? It's somewhat comparable to kimchi.
    I can easily finish a vat of it.

    Funnily enough, I can remember when Moscow had no traffic to speak of. And I am under 40.

  3. Had to laugh about the mushrooming- my father's girlfriend (Russian) is crazy about mushrooming, and goes out to do it every day in Sussex.

    Here, parks in New York have had to ban people from foraging for berries, mushrooming etc, because they were stealing them all and just cleaning the parks out. It's the new trend, apparently.

  4. OK. 24degC and the winter gear is out? OK, you win in the craziness stakes, MsC...

    Anna, I most certainly do feel strongly about the mushroom thing. I was never keen but an incident involving a stomach bug caught whilst in hospital with my very ill son and an ill-advised mushroom risotto sort of put them of my literal menu for EVER.

    NVG, I can believe it; the guys who work in our compound are out every day with plastic bags picking the mushrooms at the moment. It can be a bit disconcerting when your're trying to blog and glance out of the window to see them, actually...

  5. Finland is the same with mushrooms. I only go out once per year cos I can't be bothered with the cleaning of them afterwards. We dry ours and use them in sauces and risottos, but I have never seen/had them salted - sounds revolting.


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