Now that The Moose is working from home, I have more time for stories that don’t begin A cow says moo, a sheep says baa, three singing pigs say la la la* or In the light of the moon, a little egg lay on a leaf.** I even have the time to write a few. Here’s one:
Last week I had planned fish soup for supper. When I first wrote up the menu list, I thought it would be a good opportunity to use some of the lobster bouillon base in the refrigerator (although I’m not sure that lobster ever really qualifies as Lenten.) When it came time for the actual prep, however, “lobster base” had been kicked out of my brain by other random objects; and, not having the strict Eastern Orthodox sensibilities about bone broth and Lent, I defrosted some chicken stock to use instead. When the broth was hot and ready to use, I remembered the lobster base and thought: “What the heck. Why not combine them for extra yummy goodness.”
And that made me remember a story.
Klara’s father, Ivan, (I have mentioned both my friend Klara and her father here) was sent to school at the Pechersk Lavra (the Monastery of the Caves) in Kiev. Ivan’s uncle, Apollinary Koshevoy, was bishop or abbot, or someone important there. The Lavra, founded in 1051, is a huge complex of caves and churches and monasteries and an important center of the Orthodox church. Klara was unsure of exactly how Apollinary fit into the scheme, but knew he had some authority.
Her father, who must have been about nine or ten at the time, did not take his meals with the other boys at school there, but with his Uncle, in Apollinary’s private quarters. It wasn’t long before Ivan complained to Apollinary’s cook, Seraphim, that all he ever served him for dinner was boiled chicken and more boiled chicken, and he was sick and tired of it.
The cook shrugged his shoulders and said something about boiled chicken being good for growing boys. Not long after that, Ivan, wandering into the kitchen in search of something other than boiled chicken to eat, came across the shocking sight of his uncle’s cook making a fish soup for Apollinary – with chicken broth as its base – and suddenly all those boiled chicken dinners were explained.
Klara said the exchange went something like this:
“So, young master, are you going to tell His Excellency about this?”
Ivan, scandalized by the sight of bone broth going into his strict vegetarian Uncle’s soup said: “But, he’s committing a sin.” (Apollinary abstained from meat for religious reasons and kept all the church fasts rigorously.)
“No, it’s my sin, not His Excellency’s. His Excellency doesn’t know.”
“You know how His Excellency gives everything away, not keeping a thing for himself. And how he is always called here and called there at all times of the day and night and in all weather and how he helps everyone. You have heard him yourself come home from a house where he was invited to stay for supper and say ‘They served me fish soup, but it was so thin. It just doesn’t taste like yours, Seraphim.’ That poor man has no treats and will be condemned to eating tasteless slop if you say anything.”
When her father hesitated, Seraphim continued:
“Perhaps if you have less chicken for your dinner, you would be agreeable to keeping this secret?
They struck a deal and as far as Klara knew, Apollinary never found out how his cook always made the most delicious fish soup in all of Kiev.
I have nothing to add to this story; it’s just one of those anecdotes passed down in a family – a snapshot of another time and place – that always makes me smile.
My own soup with its combination of homemade chicken stock and commercial lobster base was excellent and hardly penitential. I think Apollinary would have enjoyed it.
* A Cow Says Moo by Sandra Boynton
** The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle