I think my grandmother would fit in really well in Russia, and today I just couldn’t help but think she was raised by a pack of Russians.
I remember a time when my friend, an exchange student, and her Korean family was coming for a visit, and my grandma just prepared a whole beautiful spread of elegance. I was surprised and secretly delighted, because if it were up to me I would have just given them tea dug out from the bottom drawer and some Ritz crackers and called it a happy day of hospitality.
Many times while I was growing up, more so when I lived with my grandparents, I remember my grandma taking special care to make sure I left the house looking good, nicely bundled up if it was chilly out, and fully prepared for the day. Her unique attention to detail often opened my eyes to something that was broken or a pair of gloves or socks with holes in them, and she never lacked in her generous call to fix or even just buy something new. Living in Russia reminds me of her often.
Researching Russian hospitality, you will find the same answers over and over. Russians will give you their best, and everything of it. If you come for a visit, no matter the length, an hour or three months, there will be a full table of candy, cookies, biscuits, homemade jam and pickles, sausage, cheese, bread, and your pick of green tea, black tea, fruit tea, of coffee. There will even be a pitcher of cool water to pour into your tea to bring it to your desired temperature. Maybe you would even like some fruit juice?
They go above and beyond to offer comfort to their guests. Also, their attention to detail and kindness is sometimes overwhelming. The other day I arrived at the church only wearing a scarf. I left the church with 2 scarves, a hat, and a mitten. They wanted to be sure I was warm enough to walk home—and boy yesssss, I was warm enough, practically sweating. This week my boot had a hole in it, I saw it but didn’t really worry about it too much. Last night it was brought to the attention of my “roommate” and the next thing I know I must not leave the house, because she is taking it to get it repaired. Tonight it came back fully sealed and ready for action.
Sometimes all this hospitality, generosity, and attention to detail makes me a little uncomfortable. I am fine sitting on the floor, drinking rain water and having no boots at all. That’s just how I am, to a fault. I will politely try anything set in front of me, but I guess here it means that I want ten more portions of it. I truly appreciate everything done for me, and I hope that I am able to return their kindness.
Russian hospitality is something for me to learn from, and maybe it’s a good time in my life to start taking notes on this kind of stuff.
(Oh, and if you ever take someone flowers- make sure it is an odd number! Even numbers of flowers are for funerals only.)