If you think that this blog is something akin to an advice column on “How To Walk And Chew Gum At The Same Time”, you probably have never been in a situation where you had to make a Russian person eat.
If you understand that I refer to an international dance of nuance and cultural subtlety, then you yourself have probably attempted to Make A Russian Person Eat and in return only heard the enigmatic reply: “I am from home” accompanied by the understanding that this indeed can only be deciphered to mean: “I will not eat”.
Indeed, “I am from home” is the ultimate evasive answer which dumbfounds the hospitable yet inexperienced Foreign Person In Russia. Truly, the Foreign Person In Russia knew full well that the Russian Person was “from home”. And even for inexperienced Foreign Persons it is intuitively understood that arguing with the origins of the Russian Person will not result in anything but an awkward situation where the Foreign Person is left banqueting alone while the Russian Person wistfully watches, completely baffled as to why he was never invited to eat.
Before we can fully discuss How To Make A Russian Person Eat, we must explore How NOT To Make A Russian Person Eat.
There is the Classic Mistake In Making A Russian Person Eat. This Classic Mistake is when the Foreign Person asks the Russian Person, “Do you want to eat?”. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Foreign Person, only ask “Do you want to eat?” if you actually DON’T want the Russian Person to eat.
It is at a grave risk of personal safety that I now let you in on The Ancient Code of Russian Honor:
No Russian Person at any time shall admit to the weakness of experiencing the feeling of hunger. This is a matter of international security.
If the Russian Person says that they want to eat, they are admitting weakness, and there is a very real chance this will spark a repeat of the Cuban missile crisis. Khrushchev will begin pounding his shoe from his grave. And a war will erupt in a developing nation, with weapons being bountifully supplied by our respective governments.
Obviously, that is something you have no interest in. You simply wanted to eat some lasagna with your Russian Person friend.
And please, may there be no ridicule of this Ancient Code of Honor. Because it is arguably the same people who authored the Ancient Ladies Code of Honor that dictates that “Ladies shall order nothing more than a salad leaf and some bubbly water on the first date”.
Without further ado, allow me to list a few of the ways to Make A Russian Person Eat that I have painstakingly taken these minutes on a Saturday morning to compile.
How To Make A Russian Person Eat:
1) Ask them if they would like some tea. “Tea” in Russian is a code word for “3 course dinner”.
In fact, if you ask if they want tea, the Russian Person will be completely disappointed if presented only with liquid. If you have ever been invited for tea by a Russian Person friend and then subsequently needed to be rolled home hours later, you know what I speak of. Now it is time for you to turn the tables on a Russian Person friend and play the same word games. There is no statute in the Code of Honor relating to the admittance of a desire for a cup of tea. As the Russian Person friend begins to drink the tea, simply put a giant plate of food in front of them and begin eating. If they say they are not hungry, stare at them dumbly or state that you are very uncomfortable eating alone. Soon, the Russian Person will begin helping you not feel uncomfortable.
2) Ask them if they will try a bite of this meat, it is very good. You will notice a common theme here. You need to provide a situation where eating is actually a plea for assistance from your Russian Person friend. Create a scheme where the Russian Person friend is partaking of your victuals from a position of strength. So, it goes something like this: “I have been barbecuing these ribs with my great-grandfather’s recipe, will you try a piece?” This is the Russian Person friend’s chance to express their approval not only of your meat, but also of your ancestral barbecue heritage. You may be surprised, at the effectiveness of this approach, as this approval is expressed by second and third helpings.
3) Order them firmly to sit down and eat. If your Russian Person friend is of a military background, this form of communication could prove to be surprisingly effective. After the uncomfortable situation of ordering a guest around has passed, you will enjoy a relaxed meal together.
4) Ask them to be your guest. The first 3 situations are related to a “spontaneous” visit to your home by a Russian Person who you genuinely would like to eat with. Don’t be offended by their spontaneity by showing up at your door at meal time. It is their way of showing that they are true friends. The beauty of the spontaneity is that there is not a high expectation placed on the food. You simply give them some of what you are eating. There is also no expectation placed on your home being clean. You simply invite them in. However, if you want to go all out and Make A Russian Person Eat in a controlled environment you must invite them to come “be your guest”. These are code words for an official relationship bound by a 9 course meal that breaks your dining table’s back forever.
5) Invite them to come to your home to sit with you. Perhaps your head is swimming by the expectations placed in Point 4 of How To Make A Russian Person Eat. You would like to Make A Russian Person Eat, but without all of the expectations. Tell your Russian Person friend to come to your home and say, “we will sit”. “We will sit” is top secret code for “we will spend time together and eat whatever is in the fridge”. When your Russian Person friend arrives, ask them if they want tea or coffee. Forcing them to make a choice is the oldest trick in the book. See, you did not offer them the choice of nothing. Now that your Russian friend is eating coffee or tea in your kitchen, begin absentmindedly pulling various groceries from your refrigerator and preparing them. Accompany this activity with understatements like, “Oh look, this old turkey is about to go bad, I’m going to throw it in the oven for a couple hours. Let’s see what happens.” Also, if in any of the above choices, you find yourself in a relaxed and merry environment with your Russian Person friends, it is proper to have a little smile and ask, “We are sitting, well, yes?” With great satisfaction, everyone will agree that, “Yes, we are sitting well”.
As a side note, if you are at a Russian Person’s home and have been eating for 8 hours straight and would like to go home, you can do this by accompanying your departure with the ultimate Guest Honor Phrase. It goes something like this: “We are sitting so well! It is a great pity that I must now go!”. Do this with the firmness of Point 3 and with the wistfulness that you are naturally experiencing as you now contemplate ripping yourself away from this situation where you are sitting so well, and soon enough you will be on your way home
6) If none of the above works, act offended. Stare blankly at the wall, completely speechless, for 30-60 seconds. Then look at your Russian Person friend and say, “I had hoped you would try some of my meat, and we could drink some tea and sit together… but I understand you must be busy…”. If that doesn’t work, simply state that “during times of war, we never dreamed of throwing a crust of bread away, let alone this kind of food”. Nothing is more effective than old fashioned manipulation.
Is there a way How To Make A Russian Person Eat that I have missed? Do your part to prevent international crisis and comment below!