Friday, September 29, 2006

The great taste of Kbac!

Every now and again I get a note from a stranger who bumped into something I’ve posted on the Internet that they have taken exception to or, much more rarely, been inspired by and they drop me a line.

And my Dear Old Mum always told me that if someone takes the time to write to you it’s only fair that you should reply. But I’m kind of busy with real world issues at the moment and I’ve been putting the latest receipts to one side to be dealt with when I was kind of less busy.

Well, I’m still busy but I’ve been sitting on a few emails for almost two months now. Plus, all the pre release publicity (and publicity stunts) for the new Borat movie have reminded me of one email in particular that I haven’t yet responded to.

Look at the funny Kazakh man. This Kazakh man is
smiling because
he comes from a country with some of
the largest fuel and mineral
reserves in the world. And if
he's smiling now he's going to be pissing
himself in a
few years time. He also happens to be Muslim.
Aren't we clever

The email is about Kvas

Kvas is the national soft drink of Russia and, I suspect, quite a few other FSU republics.

It’s primary ingredient is stale bread soaked in water which is then fermented in old plastic Fanta bottles and flavoured with whatever comes to hand – raisins, tree bark, horseradish … let your imagination run wild!

I’ve described Kvas in far from flattering terms a couple of times on the web.

In my defence, my first Kvas experience took place as part of a bizarre afternoon spent on the banks of the River Don which culminated in a group of very, very drunk people (including me) dancing in the woods to the sound of Cossack folk music blasting out from a car stereo; each of us holding half a tomato in our hands.

You would have had to be there to understand.

Taken before tomatoes were handed out and the
dancing began
- Note Kvas in foreground.
And, yes, that chap on the far right is a Kazakh

The fact that Kvas is sometimes sold on roadsides from what appear to be ex-Red Army fuel bowsers doesn’t do its reputation as the drink of sophisticates any favours either

Anyway, I got this email from a guy called Vlad a couple of months ago

I thought you were kind of harsh on Kvass.

Before you dismiss my opinion and perceive my liking of Kvass as more evidence for your theory that only Russians like Kvass, you should understand that I had only lived in Russia in my childhood, up until I was 11 years old, at which point my family moved to Canada, and have been living here since then. I am now in my twenties, and am completely integrated into western culture. I have several Canadians friends whom I have offered Kvass, and I have never gotten a bad reaction from it.

As you say yourself, there are several ways of making Kvass, so perhaps your experiences with it are only negative due to a coincidence of drinking a version of kvass made from a shitty recipe? I've never tried kvass made with beets, as my family has always made it out of bread alone, and the street-vender kvass in Russia is made from bread alone as a standard. However, the stuff with beets in it does sound disgusting.

What I like about kvass is the contrast between in its taste which is mild, and yet its very strong and distinct at the same time. The semi-carbonation is a nice touch as well.

Give kvass another shot, or try a couple of different types. I'm not trying to say that your opinion is somehow wrong, but I just think that if locals here in Canada like it, your very strong words against kvass seem a little disproportional.



Vlad, I’m sorry I didn’t write back to you sooner. I apologise if what passes for my sense of humour caused any offence and, yes, I will give Kvas another try – this time without being drunk to the point of nausea first and most definitely without the half tomato.


Wolfie said...

I'm not surprised that the Kazakh government are not amused by Mr Cohen's characterisation of Kazakh people as anti-Semitic. Their country is home to the largest synagogue in central Asia and Kazakh Jews enjoy more religious freedom than in any other Muslim country.

Ungrateful wanker.

Vlad said...

Thanks for posting this. I apologize for the slur of silly typoes in my post, as I didn't proof-read it whatsoever before sending it. I was also less careful because I didn't anticipate my message to ever be posted publicly, but it's fine.

I certainly didn't take offence to anything you said; I am not as sensitive as that. I can certainly appreciate the humor in your original kvass article, as it was indeed quite funny. But my complaint, and I shouldn't even use the word "complaint", was just an attempt to sort of say "Hey, Kvass is kind of like beer: there are several kinds of it, and it's made with different recipes as well as different preparational procedures. (Except with Kvass it's much more likely to be bad, as it's usually homemade, and usually from bad ingredients. so I guess that trying kvass is like trying a random stranger's homemade beer, where the chances of it being bad are much higher). So it's unfair to say that all Kvass sucks when you've only tried it once from some guy you got drunk with, just as it would be unfair to say that all beer sucks from trying a random homebrew."

Anyway, thanks for posting my email.

Have a good one,


P.S. Borat humour is priceless in the most subtle, yet very explicit satire of the common American's culture shock when confronted with an outside culture, and how they are willing to put up with almost anything in order to be "tolerant." Those who say that Cohen is a bigot, or that he is somehow harming Kazakhstan's reputation are missing the point.

Ashtonian said...

It's not that bad!
I get it here in Glendale on San Fernando Rd. The store is remarkable for the fact that you can food manufactured in Poland or Spain and many other European Countries.

Anonymous said...

I am mexican and live in Russia from last April, I tried kbas and I think its very good and much more healthy than coke or other similar drinks.