Thursday, September 11, 2014

Vegetable shopping, Moscow-style

Yesterday the CLO brought a group of newbies to Dorogomilivo Rynok, a huge outdoor market not far from the Embassy. I used to go shopping there every week, but I couldn't remember how to get there, so when they asked me to come along and help translate, I jumped at the chance.

It was all pretty much as I remembered, though certainly cleaner and less crowded than before. The same vendors with their heavy southern accents, the same "foreigner tax" - they jack up the prices when they see Americans coming, whether or not we speak Russian.

It's not easy to get to - about 20-30 minutes travel time via metro and on foot. But, unlike the grocery stores, they have loads of produce, often at reasonable prices, usually quite fresh. And it's huge. For comparison's sake, here's a photo of the place I normally do my vegetable shopping:

The "Fruitmania" vegetable kiosk.

This lady is directly across from the Embassy, a 5-minute walk from my house. But it's a tiny little kiosk, with only the basic produce - carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, onions...  

The Rynok, by comparison, has everything, according to season: hot peppers, purple basil, berries, melons, nuts and spices; pickled cucumbers, pickled garlic, pickled everything, all available for sampling. Vendors sell home-harvested honey, baklava, meat, bread, pastries, cheese and homemade sauces.

I love this place.

It does take some getting used to - the Rynok isn't quite comparable to, say, Wegmans, with its pre-washed lettuce, saran-wrapped meat and refrigerated sushi. But still: I walk in and immediately start dreaming up recipes based on the foods in front of me. Pasta with pesto sauce, perhaps? Spinach salad with strawberries and roasted walnuts? Or maybe kidney beans mashed with khmeli-tsuneli, an Armenian curry that I ran out of years ago and bought from the first spice stall I passed yesterday. I start calculating carefully, making sure I don't buy so much that I can't haul it all home.  (I remember vividly that time in 2000, when I had the baby strapped to my chest in a baby carrier, yet I made the stupid, stupid decision to buy a enormous watermelon in addition to my regular purchases. By the time I made it home, I couldn't feel my fingers. I barely avoided having to abandon the melon by the side of the road. My biceps didn't recover for days.)

Yesterday's Rynok, in photos:

The center aisle, piled high with produce. Vendors chat while they wait for customers to pass by.

Khachapuri, bread stuffed with salty suluguni cheese, baked on site, hot and delicious.

Through that window you can catch a glimpse of bakers kneading dough for pastries, regional breads and khachapuri.

In the mood for red meat? You'll have to tell one of these guys what you want,
and he'll hack off a piece of animal just for you.

Action shot!
(No. I don't buy meat here. Because, ewww. All of those animals pieces dangling from hooks? Can't do it.) 

If it's chicken you want,
these guys were probably strutting around the yard on those giant chicken claws just yesterday.

I'm told they leave the fur on so you know the rabbit is fresh. Not for good luck at all.

Planning a party? Get your caviar here.
That's it. I bought basil, pickles, spices, cabbage-stuffed pastries, white honey... I even splurged on some super expensive, end-of-season raspberries. I would've bought more, but I was busy helping other people with translation so they could shop, too - I always like translating for these kinds of events because it reminds me of how far I've come from the days when I struggled just to ask the prices of things. And I got to hang out with some fun people. I've already found a few who might be worthy of nicknames on this blog some day in the future. I'll keep you posted on that.


Dorothy Handelman said... [Reply]

Looks like a wonderful place to shop for food.
Love the photos and thanks for sharing! (and I imagine your family was thrilled with what you cooked for dinner!!!)

JWJones said... [Reply]

Awesome photos! What was for dinner?

Please. Write your own stuff.