Arvamus 26 Jan 2010 Justin PetroneEWR
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Any food one could desire is available within Estonia. The hitch is that it is available somewhere in Estonia and that somewhere can change at anytime. You might be able to procure some celery one day at the Selver down the street, for example. But the next week, you won't find it there, but at the Konsum across town. How would you know? You've simply got to go hunting for it.

Fresh produce flows into and out of E-land from myriad locations: Georgia, Brazil, Morocco. It's not even the more exotic products that are difficult to keep in your cupboard, though. I fell in love with Fazer Cacao -- cocoa powder so strong it gives you an uplifting headrush with every sip. I'm not sure where I got it, but then -- poof! -- in a cloud of chocolate dust, it was nowhere to be found. I trekked through Maxima, Konsum, Säästukas, but, no, all gone. One seller tried to pawn off a bag of Nesquik on me, like it was the same thing. Let me just say that I really want to vote for Kalev on the poll to your right, but my allegiance to Fazer Cacao keeps me on the fence.

Which brings us to a curious fruit called persimmons by Englishmen, "cachi" by paesans, and, as I have come to learn in not one but two separate supermarkets, hurmaa by eestlased. Hurmaa. It's a curious name. It doesn't sound like your typical Estonian fruit or vegetable. Õun (apple), jõhvikas (cranberry), maasikas (strawberry), kartul (potato), porgand (carrot), and then, hurmaa? Como? It sounds like an Estonian national park. Between Soomaa and Lahemaa, there lies Hurmaa, an endless grove of pure imagination. And the best thing about my favorite fruit, hurmaa/cachi/persimmons, is that they must have imported a shit load of them to Tartu, because they're everywhere. Maybe the food import gods knew I'd be here, because I didn't see anyone else loading up their bags at the local shop. See, I need things like this to function in society. I need hurmaa to show me that, even if my car doesn't start because it's -15 F/-26 C outside, even if my fingers ache and my face is frozen in one, oddly Eskimo-like position, there was a reason I hiked through the tundra all the way to the supermarket.

The frozen car situation is quite a new experience. I was proud as ours revved up and got us to the office to unload some Petrone Print books. I thought of all those other poor suckers in their pussycatmobiles. I felt vindicated in sticking with our ride, arrogant even. But then pulling out of the parking lot, klunk, nothing. The Antarctic silence was broken only by the hum of my AM radio, which refused to go off. In fact, even removing the key from the ignition would not turn the electric in the car off. It was a ghost car. The lights were on. The radio refused to die. And the annoying air-bag light, which never goes off, kept blinking and blinking. "What's going on?" she was bewildered. "Maybe it's the weather?" I was honest.

I was reminded of a time I went to go help out a writer friend with car trouble who was stranded on a country road in north Estonia. When I approached, his Estonian wife declared: "I should have married an automechanic, not a writer. A mechanic could fix this car. What's he going to do?" she gestured at her mees. "Write a story about it?" With a stroke of good fortune, the writer friend was able to get his machine going after a few hours in distress and ride it back to the autobody shop in Tallinn where manly Estonian men fix things. But that was in the summer. And our car? We had to abandon ship. It's still sitting there in thick pack ice. There is some hope amongst the crew that the weather will soon turn for the better, and the ship will sail again. Until then, we are here camped out on the ice, with nothing but Fazer Cacao, Hurmaa, and each other for company.

(Itching for Eestimaa, )
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