Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Russian BBQ With Bavarian Swans

I've been in Munich for four nights and five days.  The irony of being in Munich was that my hosts, at least this time around, were not Bavarians but Russians.  I stayed with a 60 year old mother and her Russian son of 23.

I think they provided me with one of the strangest travel experiences I ever had.  On one of the days, I made them Korean BBQ.  These Russians never ate Korean BBQ before; so, for them, it was an exotic experience of the Far East.  And I'd like to brag, anyone who has eaten our family BBQ, has said it's to die for.  So for these Russians, they sad they loved it.

In turn, they wanted to repay me back for my bbq with their own.  The Russians have a bbq called "Shashlich," pronounced "Sh-ash-lik."  The Russian mother marinated the meat in a mustard and onion sauce.  A few days before, when we mushroom hunting in the forest, we gathered fire wood.  We would need it for the Russian Shashlich.

So, at around 8pm, when the light had set, the Russian mother, son, and I carried the firewood, grill, and the meat.  We took the underground to a Bavarian river.  It was rather dark, except for the stars and moon.  But what caught my attention immediately, was the ballet of white swans that were sitting on the bank of the river.    Accompanying them was a gaggle of geese and a badling of ducks.  The ducks made me think of my duckling back home, but I realize with all the time I have been gone it may no longer be a duckling.

We set up the portable grill and started the fire by adding in the firewood and charcoal.  The Russian mother began by stringing the skewer with a piece of meat, a piece of tomato, a piece of bell pepper, and then repeating the sequence.

After the fire began, the water fowls saw it and jumped into the water.  There was, however, one brave duck that kept coming towards us, asking for food but still weary we might try to harass it.  I tried on several attempts to lunge for it, only to be foiled by it.  It again made me think of my pet duck back home.

We waited for the fire to die down and then placed the skewers on top of the grill.  I think the meat was of pork.  I remember because I was worried that if I ate it too raw I might get parasites.  Nonetheless, I probably ate the meat at a medium-rare and appreciated the perfect texture of the meat.  The taste of mustard and spices also came through.  It made me think though, as good as the meat was, that something was missing in this Shashlich.  I believe that some citrus and more sweetness could have balanced the flavor a little better.

There we were.  The only people on this Munich River in the middle of the night, eating bbq.  Our only company were the swans, duck, and geese.  It just felt strange to be the only ones there, but the air was getting colder and hence it brought a clear message: the winter was coming.

The mother said, "I think this is the last time we will have Shashlich this year.  My son will be going to Hamburg soon."

I just nodded.  While pulling pieces of meat off the skewer with my teeth, I told them about my journey through Russia and the places I wanted to see if I went back.  I wonder if I should go back a lot with everything I went through.  Hmmmm. . . .  They told me about the different ethnic groups in Russia, but most of what they said about these ethnicities is better left unsaid.

And that was how we had a bbq with the swans.

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