Here’s to VODKA!
I’m back from the Ukraine and feeling a little groggy. Yes, the flight home was 11 hours and yes the pregnant women who sat both in front of me and back of me threw up different parts of the flight, but that’s neither here nor there.
I think my body is still trying to filter out the Vodka. And there was a lot of it.
On my last night in town, the guys from the Ukraine facility wanted to treat the Americans to a traditional Russian dinner. There were 10 of us all together at the back of a restaurant in the small town of Stryi.
Here is a breakdown of nationalities at our table:
1 Ukraine guy
1 dude from Ghana
3 Americans–me being the only girl
I am seated at the middle of the long table with my American colleagues at either side of me. I’m directly across from the Ukraine guy who happens to be the General Manager of the facility. He motions for the waiter to come over to pour a round of Vodka shots.
I had already been warned that these people drink Vodka like water. I had also been warned that it is an insult to not drink with them, so if offered, you’d better partake.
Ukraine guy stands up and toasts everyone at the table. He talks about the wonderful relationship between them and the US and it proud to call us partners. This goes on for about five minutes. In this five minutes, waiter boy has placed a plate of “something” at each end of the table. I’m no expert, but it looked like slugs.
Our host concludes his salute by saying that it is Russian tradition to chase the Vodka shot. On this special celebratory occasion, we will be chasing the shot with herring. And onions.
Lord help me right now. That was my first thought. Seriously.
He lifts his glass and toasts the table. We all slam our drinks back and spike the herring with our fork. Down the hatch.
All I can say is THANK GOODNESS the Vodka tasted like rubbing alcohol, because it burned the taste of the oily, slimy herring in my mouth. It may have burned a few taste buds too, but I’m good with that at this point.
Everyone cheers and high fives as waiter boy brings a plate of cucumbers, tomatoes and red bell peppers. I start munching away. I’m professional. I can get through this, even though I can’t stand tomatoes. We all know I have the appetite of a sophisticated fourth grader, but I pressed through for the good of the company.
All of the sudden, waiter boy starts making his rounds filling up the Vodka shots again. What in the world? Number two Russian guy stands up and makes a toast. It too lasts forever. We cheer. We toast. We take the shot. We all suck in air…you know what I mean…and then eat some more oily herring.
And then comes the questionable deli meat. Being the smart eater I am, I choose the two lightest meats. I convince myself they surely come from Louis Rich and chant mentally in my head, “It’s turkey and ham. It’s turkey and ham. It’s turkey and ham.” I gobble it up in three bites, ignoring the funny smell. I soon notice a plate has been thrust in my face. It’s full of rolled up bacon.
You may be thinking to yourself, “Oh good! Something she recognizes. Everyone loves bacon!”
Dear friend. We are in the Ukraine. It’s bacon fat. Fat. The fat of bacon. All white. Fat. Bacon fat.
My Ukraine friend who is across from me is holding the plate with a huge smile. “It’s good for you!”
Good to clog my arteries, but WHAT THE HECK! And where’s my Vodka shot? OH THERE IT IS!
Waiter boy comes over with the third shot. It helps to dissolve the roll of bacon that has lodged in my throat, so this is a welcome shot!
It is the beginning of the fourth course when I realize that we toast each round. I try to get the attention of my waiter friend, but my arms are too heavy to lift. He finally realizes that my joints are paralyzed from the Vodka and comes over to see what I need. I ask for bottled water. After looking at me like I’m from another planet, he finally brings one over.
Everyone is diving in to the potato ravioli (not the real name, but what I called them) and luckily they don’t notice me putting water in my shot glass. The next course comes and I’m ready to toast EVERYONE! By the end of the night, the Russians are toasting the Vodka. The Brits are toasting the Americans who carry guns, and the Americans are toasting the Revolutionary War. Good times.
All together there were seven courses. I had four Vodka shots and three water. I slept good that night. And also have the feeling that my insides have been cleansed.
And it’s a good thing my insides were cleaned out, because I later found out that that deli meat was donkey tongue.
I think I threw up a little in my mouth just typing that sentence.