During my time in Russia, one of my favorite activities was cooking with my host family. My host mother was an excellent cook. I looked forward to every opportunity to cook with her as she made magic happen in the kitchen. The first time I cooked with her was also the time when I could feel myself go from being a guest in my host family’s home to becoming a member of the family.

I was watching television with my sisters when Mom invited us into the kitchen to make blinis. I had no idea what to expect since I did not know that blinis were essentially Russian pancakes. Mom was a wonderful and patient teacher. She helped me make the batter and demonstrated how to make a pancake by making the first one all by herself. Before I could say “yummy blini” she handed me the ladle and spatula and gestured towards the pan. I was nervous. On my first try I dropped a ladle full of batter on the floor. What a mess it made. I was mortified. My sisters laughed and helped clean up. Everyone insisted that it was okay and we all joked about the mess and my experimental blinis. After a couple more tries I managed to make some blinis that looked reasonably edible. My younger sister started eating them as soon as I took them off the pan. I know they were not the best, but she smacked her lips, told me I was a good cook, and give me a big hug.

On my last day in Kirov my host family showered me with many gifts and hugs. Among the gifts was a cook book and an apron. My mom had searched high and low to find this book for me. This book had many of the recipes that she and I had cooked together. It was all in Russian. I could read and understand the recipes. I was deeply touched and I understood that my host family would be with me in spirit each time I walked into a kitchen and cooked one of our shared recipes.

Anisha was a participant on the 2016 Russia summer program.