Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Fishing Story

Katja's family recently had a gathering at her Uncle Viktor's home in Rostov Veliky. I should explain that while Katja's family is Russian, her family had lived in the Almaty region of Kazakhstan for many years. Katja's parents, grandparents, uncle, aunt, cousins and some other family had moved to Rostov Veliky in the early 90s. However, it seems that some various cousins and other family members remained in Kazakhstan. Several of these cousins/uncles had made a trip to visit the family in Rostov V. .. sort of a family reunion, as it were.

At this time in our story, we must introduce two particular characters. Katja's Uncle Viktor and his cousin from Almaty (I'll get his name later). Viktor has a landscaping business of some success. In truth, he is a personable fellow and had success even under communism while in Almaty, where he ran a banya/resort/spa. He also has a moderately wicked sense of humor (as does most of Katja's family - her father's practical jokes are legendary).

In any case, Viktor's cousin is a rather loud fellow, capable of making big boasts, particularly after a few drinks. He made a point of saying what a terrific fisherman he is, and how he was going wake up very early each day and catch the most and biggest fish in nearby Lake Nero. The truth is 1) This cousin wasn't about to wake up early, particularly given the alcohol consumed each evening and 2) Lake Nero is practically devoid of fish, having been fished to oblivion by locals during the hard years of the 1990s.

In any event, Viktor had a plan to humble his boastful cousin. He asked two of the workers from his landscaping business to fish a nearby river on their way to work each morning, and bring the fish to him. They presented their big fish to Viktor very early each morning ... and Viktor would wake his cousin, hanging the big fish in front of his face. "Look what I've caught in the lake already this morning, cousin! Time to go catch yours!"

On the weekend, Viktor cooked up the biggest of the fish in a dish called "Кок-тал" (Kok-tal). Katja explained this dish to me as a sort of prison food. In work camps or prisons, workers often have to supplement their diet with food that they can catch or grow. The dish consists of a filleted fish, layed flat, with sliced onions, peppers, tomatoes, and cheese on top. The whole thing is baked or roasted.

We also have some photos from the family gathering, including the large outdoor stove that Viktor constructed in his garden. Has a large central opening for their samovar, as well as an oven and griddle/grill area.

Katja's cousin Ira on far right, Katja's mother, Natalia has her back towards us. Her aunt is serving the Kok-tal. Her grandfather is seated next to Ira.

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