Thursday, December 3, 2015

Ludmilla Petrushevskaya and 'Russian' coffee

Back in the '90's when I was a student in Aberdeen (often cold and wet in the winter, and on reflection also in the spring, summer, and autumn) I found a recipe in a cocktail book for Russian Coffee, you take a silver coin and place it in the bottom of a cup, fill it with coffee until you can't see the coin and then with vodka until it appears again. It appealed to me because it was warm, simple, and the coin bit is the sort of detail I like. I have no idea how authentically Russian this practice might be, but it fitted well with the Cold War stereotypes I had.

Tonight I've been hosting a wine tasting (which has made school night drinking seem like a better idea than it actually is) and walked back home through the sort of deluge that makes even ducks decide it's a bit wet. I'm cold, still a bit damp round the edges, and if I didn't need to be up at 6 for work would be drinking one of those coffee's right now. These days it wouldn't be the half and half mix the coin dictates but just enough to give the coffee a kick, but otherwise it's held its appeal for me. It's still the simplicity that appeals, as well as the aromatic, spiky, quality of the coffee (I'd go for something tangy and strong with fruity notes rather than smooth and mild), it's also one of the few times I see the point of vodka (I prefer gin. Because it tastes of something.).

Ludmilla Petrushevskaya does nothing to dispel my preconceived ideas of Communist Russia, I loved her collection of Love Stories and the scary fairy tales of 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbours Baby'. I have 'There Once Lived a Mother Who Loved Her Children Until They Moved Back In' to look forward to. Her combination of fairy tale tropes, dark humour, and merciless observation, are deeply satisfying - and sometimes unexpectedly uplifting, much like the coffee and vodka. This is a combination for a really filthy day, when all you can do is embrace the crappy weather and exploit the atmosphere it creates.


  1. That is a new author to me, and also a new idea of the silver coin, coffee and vodka.

  2. She's really good, not exactly up beat but interesting and a brilliant observer of humanity. The coffee thing is good - dependant on a decent coffee and rather less vodka than the original recipe called for. Dark, fragrant, and with an extra warming kick - it's not a bad combination.