Friday, September 26, 2003

Small talk about a meal

There was a Russian Meal tonight, at the oldest Russian restaurant in Helsinki, with authentic Russian food, and what I was assured was authentically surly service, which reached its high point when my editor and translator enquired about the apple pie, and explained to the waitress that they would go into anaphylactic shock if they ate nuts, and she told them huffily that there could not possibly be any nuts in the apple pie, because it had raisins in. They ate the pie, and asked about the little hard bits, and were told that they were cooked raisins. Then my editor started poking about in her pie. "What's that?" she asked, nervously. I reached across, and took it, and looked at it, and ate it. "Hazel nut," I said. "Is that bad?" They told the waitress that just because there were raisins in the pie, it did not mean there were not also nuts, and they sent her back to the kitchen to see if there were cashews (which would have been very bad indeed) but there weren't. Just hazel nuts. And walnuts. I asked if they had adrenaline injectors, and my editor did, and my book translator had left his at home.

We waited to see if they would die, and I told them encouraging stories about friends of mine who had stopped breathing in restaurants but survived and gone on to live long and productive lives, to cheer them up.

But in the end, neither of them stopped breathing. And when the bill came, they told the restaurant they weren't paying for the pie, either.

My meal was great, actually.

And that's all for tonight, except that I learned that Finns Don't Ask Questions In Press Conferences. I was told they wouldn't, and that I should just talk and talk, because otherwise it would be very short and embarrassing. I doubted it... but it seems to be true. They don't. (This is not, of course, entirely true. The first Press Conference I was at in Finland, in Kemi, in 1994, all the journalists, of every nationality, asked lots of questions. Then again, everyone was naked, sweating, and slightly drunk. Probably the rule is just that Fully Dressed Finnish Journalists Not Drinking High Alcohol Beer in Very Hot Town Saunas Don't Ask Questions.)