Ode to Plov
Illustration: Kuralay Meirbekova

April 2018

Saint Petersburg, Russia

Ode to Plov

 

I sit in Afrosiab

Known as uzbechka to my Russian friends

For the fourth time in less weeks.

 

The headwaiter knows me but isn’t sure who I am

I ferry foreigners loud and appreciative 

To the uzbechka.

 

I sing the praises of plov

Its sometimes saffron and soft carrots 

But at the uzbechka plov goes fast

Working men eat

Like their lives depended on it.

 

And maybe they do

For its unsung batyrs in a cold, hostile place

Plov is home, or at least something like it. 

 

Plastic covers on suzanis,

Lepeshkas in wicker,

Stacks of blue pialas teetering.

Tandyr murmuring,

Kitchen door swinging,

Muffled Turkic vowels punctuating.

 

The place is for its own

Like they say in Russian

But the headwaiter winks at me now, too. 

 

I ask if there is plov today

For the fourth time in less weeks

Finally

The headwaiter winks and says,

 

“And it’s fresh.”

 

April 2018, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Illustration: Kuralay Meirbekova

Published: April 19, 2018