Sadly, I have not yet seen Comrade Wonka walking out of the building, but I have had the pleasure of smelling its delicious confections as I pass by. And believe me, when you have “feels like” -15 degree F, 20 mph wind whipping at your face, the fact that it carries such lovely scents makes a big difference.
One of my colleagues at the university introduced me to the factory’s local specialty, птичье молоко (pTIchi malaKO) or, in English: bird milk. She quickly explained that the candy does not in fact contain any bird or milk, but is made out of processed algae, or agar-agar. Thankfully, agar-agar sounds the same in Russian and English, and my appreciation for classy jello shots has acquainted me with this lovely product. The “classic bird milk” set comes with lemon, cream and chocolate flavored delights in thin chocolate shells. It’s pretty tasty!
Chocolate is becoming a large part of my everyday life here. Other people in my department are responsible for helping international students and faculty keep their documents in order, and it is customary here for people to show gratitude for things like this by giving gifts of candy. There seems to be an unspoken rule that you share snacks in our office (I also am offered clementine segments very frequently), so when a gift of chocolate is delivered, we all enjoy it.
On Friday, I was given a “candy” called “gematoGENka,” which the girls in my office seemed to think was cute. They explained to me that it’s like a vitamin in disguise for kids (Russian Flintstones!) to raise their hemoglobin… aka also perfect for a vegetarian struggling to get her nutrients! This revelation led to a very not chocolately discussion of other things they want me to eat to keep healthy. This includes some kind of fern plant dish, maybe made from the roots, or a different kind of “fern” than I’m used to. We shall see. I bet I can find it dipped in chocolate if I look hard enough.