One of the reasons I didn’t visit Sophia in New York is that her mother, who lives in LA, hasn’t been feeling too well. Since she can’t speak English, she wanted one of us around in case of emergency.
This morning, I was woken up early by a phone call from Sophia. Her mother was having a lot of pain in her back and wanted me to drive her to the emergency room. I threw on my clothes and rushed over.
When I arrived, Fanya, her mother, was writhing in pain on the couch, but her step-father, Alex, was setting the table for breakfast.
“Hospital?” I asked.
“Breakfast first.” he said in broken English.
I sat down, and Fanya joined us at the table. Alex brought out plates of eggs, bread, cheese, meats, caviar, cream cheese, tomatoes, and mixed salad. I thought this was a little odd, considering I flew over there in a rush, not even putting on any socks.
Fanya immediately started yelling at him, not because he was wasting time, but because there wasn’t enough food on the table. From what I understood, she was upset that he was being too “stingy,” so he went back to fridge and brought out some cabbage and fish.
Sophia’s parents aren’t rich people, but this is how Russians treat “guests.” I talked about this yesterday when I had coffee with the lovely Kristen, who was visiting Los Angeles from the East Coast. We discussed the different ways Americans “entertain at home” vs. the way of Europeans.
I know for certain that Sophia’s parents would be insulted if someone served them cheese and crackers. They always put out their best dishes, even for a stranger. In my experience, I’ve noticed that the wealthier a couple is, the more likely it will be that they serve take-out chicken to a guest, particularly one deemed of “lower status.”
A meal is a special event for her parents. I doubt they have ever gone into a Burger King. Even Sophia never ate fast food until I corrupted her! But she still does fast-food in her own style. Sophia once called for the manager because the girl at the register wouldn’t allow her to get BBQ sauce put on her grilled chicken sandwich.
After the feast at Sophia’s parents’ apartment, I helped wash the dishes. Fanya and Alex fought a little more (I know this because I recognized some of the same curse words that Sophia uses). Then, after all this eating and fighting, Fanya suddenly decided that her back pain had mysteriously disappeared.
Who knows? Maybe, deep down, she just wanted a guest for breakfast…
So I said goodbye and went home.
A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Cheap Thrills