Syedyshev Oleg
Syedyshev Oleg

Humorous Essays Based on students' memories

"All have died
except for those who are alive, and those whom we remember"Confucius

Essay 99. Always hungry

After I started writing essays, events of the long bygone times come into my mind; sometimes because of these recollections my hair stands on end on my clean-shaven head. I am saying this not in order to laugh. Now it is just hard to believe how we could do such foolish things in those days. God protected us, absolute atheists back then, from criminal prosecution and punishment from individuals, I should say, the reasonable one. Just tell me, what would you do, if you caught a thief in your cellar?

As for killing him, you would not do that, but you would for sure let him have it. It would serve him right. Though as fate willed there were a great number of cellars digged by the residents of the nearby and remote new-built housing in the neighborhood of the regional hospital of Kemerovo in the 60s and 70s. People did not store any especially valuable food there, but potatoes were always in there. And there were not just potatoes, but tonnes of potatoes. The Siberians are thrifty people; they filled their cellars with so many potatoes, that their families would not eat them for two or three years.

In spring the cellars were inspected. Vegetables that began to rot were thrown out, and then it was estimated, how many potatoes had to be left to be planted in summer, how many should be kept before young potatoes would come, the rest of potatoes were given out to friends and acquaintances or sold, if the owners had a commercial talent, though there were not more than one or two of them. Well, as soon as the cellars were near a medical students' dorm, part of students without any complexes obnoxiously put themselves on the list of friends of the cellars' owners and did not wait before they would start handing excess potatoes out.

During hard times of their student life, which with surprising regularity started every month before receiving stipends, when every kopeck was treasured, and those kopecks were scares as hen's teeth, and the students were tortured by the question: "How to survive on a stipend?", without any complexes student brotherhood visited the cellars and carefully opened them. After they opened the cellars they took potatoes in all containers they'd brought with them. In the dorm they guys were heroes. Nobody blamed them. I should say that among the students-medics there was a rule: "do not play mean tricks"; they never took too much, and did their best to lock the cellars "they way it was". Yes, among those who lived in the dorm, it was not a rare thing to do that. No wonder, those who could pay their apartment rent, as a rule had money for the so called "rainy day". They did not have motivation to step on a slippery path of secret stealing of somebody else's property via breaking into their cellars. So in my favorite room in the dorm, where I also had a bed, but slept on it once a month maximum, there was also a person in charge of "inspecting of the cellars". Kostya Romashov, a younger brother of Yevgeniy Romashov was a real ace at that undertaking. He was not only an ace, but a gentleman as well. Kostya never broke locks of the cellars. He had a creative approach to the matter; he simply fitted keys to several locks and carefully opened a lock, filled his backpack with potatoes and carefully locked the lock. And in winter he also covered the cellar with snow. So Kostya would bring potatoes and hand on the baton to Yevgeniy and Kolya Kozlov. Those cool guys were good at "fishing".

With a hook they'd made from thick wire or as it was also called "a horse" and a hunk of clothesline they got a hand of "fishing" bags, which were hanging outside windows in winter, as there were no refrigerators in the dorm. And they were doing that not only under their window on the fifth floor, but on the vertical rows of windows on the right and left sides. I should say that that was not easy; the bags' owners were aware of the "fishing" and put all kinds of obstacles to it. However a credit should be given to Kolya and Zhenya, they knew their business and never came back without a catch. Well, what students could keep outside their windows in the cold? Usually it was lard or meat, which family members of those daydreamers had brought to them from a village.

Generally speaking, the food variety was super. Well, after that the baton was picked up by Zhora Chernobay. Nobody else could fry potatoes on salted lard the way Zhora did.

Ah, how appetizingly he added onion fried separately into fried potatoes! That was ecstasy! They have a reason saying that a talented person is talented in everything. Ah, and how he stewed potatoes with meat!

He could easily conduct seminars on the topic: "Potato dishes", and the house would be full.

Half of the dorm gathered attracted by the aroma and under various pretexts invited themselves to dinner. As a rule, it was done not spontaneously, but was planned beforehand,
and those who enjoyed special trust were not only informed about it, but were also invited. I am proud to say,
that I was among the most trusted ones and I did not blame them for those pranks, but also gladly became an accomplice, as I played a good knife and fork at the dishes made from the secretly stolen food and praised Kostya and Kolya, and Zhenka and Zhora. I should say that when invited I used to bring a bottle of "Promontor" or "777"; that was an unwritten rule for the invited to bring alcohol. Some also used to bring pickled cucumbers or milk mushrooms, or Siberian agaric honeys.

The funniest thing was when the owners of the bags came to the dinner. They also ate with pleasure and also brought a bottle, and also praised Zhora.

There were all kinds of topics and plans during those meals! And the way we joked and dreamed! I am asking you very much not to condemn us for that. Yes, we were young, stupid, but not greedy or always hungry. Why? I cannot understand even now.

22 January, 2012.

© Copyright: Oleg Syedyshev, 2012
Publishing licence #213101901004

Translated by Viktoria Potykinato content