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俄罗斯餐桌怪习俗:喝伏特加一定要闻面包

更新时间:2019/3/2 10:07:44 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Russia's strange bread-sniffing ritual
俄罗斯餐桌怪习俗:喝伏特加一定要闻面包

“Somebody in Bristol started making a vodka called Novichok,” said our host, Natasha Ward, faux-scandalised at the reference to the toxic nerve agent. “And they were immediately told, ‘Stop it at once!’” She laughed as she finished setting the table for the day’s gathering in her home in South London, introducing the dishes as one might introduce guests at a party. “We start with herring, salted, not pickled – English people hate beetroot because they’ve only ever met it in this horrible vinegar, and those rollmop herrings that look like corpses, you know?”

“布里斯托竟然有人开始生产一种名叫诺维乔克(Novichok)的伏特加,”招待我们的主人娜塔莎·沃德(Natasha Ward)说。诺维乔克本是前苏联开发的一种神经毒剂,沃德特意显示她对此相当愤慨,“马上就有人呵斥他们‘立刻停止!’”她在南伦敦的家中,笑着摆好了为当天的聚会准备的餐桌,像在聚会上介绍客人一样介绍每一道菜肴。“第一道菜是鲱鱼,加了点盐,但没有经过腌制。英国人不喜欢吃甜菜,因为他们见到的甜菜根都浸泡在这种可怕的醋里,而且醋渍鲱鱼卷看起来像裹尸一样,你知道吗?”

Ward is a master of moving between cultures. She’s half-Russian, half-English, and has worked as an interpreter for such diverse parties as the United Nations, Angelina Jolie and Mikhail Gorbachev. Today’s task – explaining exactly why Russian people might sniff bread while drinking vodka – may not be quite so starry, but it does offer a portal into the realities of Russian life at a time when sympathetic cultural insight is sorely lacking.

沃德是在不同文化之间游走的高手。她有一半俄罗斯血统,一半英国血统,曾为各种不同的机构和人士做过翻译,包括联合国的机构、美国好莱坞巨星安洁莉娜‧朱莉(Angelina Jolie)和戈尔巴乔夫(Mikhail Gorbachev)在内。她今天的任务是向我解释俄罗斯人为什么会在喝伏特加的时候必定要嗅闻面包。这个任务可能不如她之前的工作那么耀眼,但在一个文化洞察力极度缺乏的时代,这的确为我们提供了一个了解俄罗斯人真实生活情况的窗口。

To armchair observers, relations between Russia and the West currently seem cartoonishly chilly; there was more than a touch of Cold War frost to recent news reports about the Russian and American withdrawal from a nuclear weapons treaty, the Salisbury nerve agent poisonings in the UK and, of course, the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

在不深入实际的肤浅观察人士看来,目前俄罗斯与西方的关系似乎如漫画所夸张的一样寒冷。最近有关俄罗斯和美国退出核武器条约,以及英国索尔兹伯里(Salisbury)的神经毒剂中毒事件等新闻报道,带来的不仅仅是一丝冷战的寒意。

“We were happy when the Russian football team finally lost,” said Anna Ivanov, while her husband Misha shrugged. Anna and Misha are the parents of Ward’s best friend, Helena Bayliss, and the couple moved here from Russia 20 years ago when their daughter married an Englishman. “When the team were winning, there was so much hot air in everything the media said. The mouth didn’t shut for a moment!”

当然,2018年俄罗斯世界杯是个例外。“俄罗斯队最后输了的时候,我们很高兴,”安娜·伊万诺夫(Anna Ivanov)说。她丈夫米沙(Misha)则耸了耸肩。他们的女儿海伦娜·贝利斯(Helena Baylis)是沃德最好的朋友。20年前贝利斯嫁给了一个英国人,他们便从俄罗斯移民到了英国。“俄罗斯队赢球的时候,媒体说了很多大话,嘴巴一刻都没合上过!”

“Now,” Ward said, “which vodka shall we start with?”

“好啦,”沃德说,“我们先喝哪种伏特加?”

The choice was impressive, as it should be. Russia, after all, is the birthplace of the chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, who created the Periodic Table and is also said to have perfected the recipe for vodka as strictly 40% proof (a popular myth but a fun story). Accordingly, Ward offered fiery pertsovka vodka made with chillies, plain Russian vodka, vodka made in Newfoundland as part of a new venture by Hollywood actor Dan Aykroyd and homemade limonaya (lemon) vodka. “This is actually medical alcohol which is 95% proof,” said Ward matter-of-factly, “which you then water down, half and half, and add lemon.” Moonshine, in other words? “No, if it was moonshine we’d have to have a still.” Bayliss started laughing. “Natasha, you disappoint!”

他们最终的选择令人印象深刻,这倒也顺理成章,因为俄罗斯毕竟诞生了化学家门捷列夫(Dmitri Mendeleev)。门捷列夫不仅发明了元素周期表,据说还完善了伏特加的配方,将其酒精度严格限定为40度(此说法流传甚广,但只是一个有趣的故事而已)。因此,沃德拿出了用辣椒、纯俄罗斯伏特加、好莱坞演员艾克罗伊德(Dan Aykroyd)在纽芬兰打造的伏特加和自制的柠檬伏特加调制的烈性珀特索伏卡伏特加(pertsovka vodka)。沃德实事求是地说,“这其实是一种医用酒精,酒精度95度,然后按一比一的比例兑水,再加入柠檬。”换句话说,这就是私酿酒?“不是,如果是私酿酒,我们得有蒸馏器。”贝利斯大笑起来。“娜塔莎,你真让我失望!”

Our little company was assembled for two reasons: firstly, to have a convivial time; and secondly, to get the bottom of the Russian vodka ritual – a time-honoured tradition that has social drinkers sniffing bread in the name of propriety.

我们这一小群人聚在一起有两个原因:一是为了享受快乐时光,二是为了搞清楚俄罗斯人喝伏特加的习俗,即相聚饮酒时以礼仪的名义嗅闻面包这个由来已久的传统。

To begin, both the vodka and the glasses were retrieved from the freezer, and Bayliss outlined the essentials for drinking vodka, Russian-style. “Vodka should be cold, glass should be tiny and there must be something salty, or rye bread, to follow,” she said. “There’s no point in drinking vodka and following it with an eclair, it doesn’t work”. “Or,” added Ward, “God forbid, following it with nothing!”

首先,从冰箱里取出伏特加和玻璃杯,贝利斯简单介绍了喝伏特加的要领,当然是俄罗斯式的。她说,“伏特加得是冰凉的,酒杯要用小杯子,然后喝完酒一定要吃咸的东西,或者黑麦面包。喝完伏特加后吃奶油泡芙是没有意义的,没用。”沃德补充说道,“或者什么都不吃。但愿不会出现这样的情况!”

The freezing temperature of the drink is a no-brainer; it sends the shot down the throat more comfortably. “It’s not something you sip and savour,” Bayliss said. So why do people drink it? Her mother laughed. “Well, the afterwards, the glow!”

伏特加冰点的温度让人想都不用想便会仰脖一饮而尽,冰凉的酒更为润喉。贝利斯说,“这种饮法不是小口抿,慢慢品味。”那人们为什么要喝伏特加呢?她的母亲笑了。“哎呀,是喝下去之后的感觉,强烈的满足感!”

The glow, in fact, is how I first encountered the Russian bread-sniffing ritual. Ward is the mother of my best friend Marsha, and as wayward teenagers, Marsha and I were more than happy to sit in on the gatherings her mother held following her work trips to Russia, the table heaving with exotic booze, salty pickles and black bread. We would watch Ward and her guests laughing, telling tall tales and – crucially – munching on snacks immediately after knocking back shots of vodka. When the guests’ appetite had been amply satisfied – but the toasting continued – they would give the bread a quick sniff after downing their vodka shot, in place of eating it. We were transfixed.

实际上,我正是在这种强烈的满足感中第一次见到俄罗斯人饮酒时闻面包的。沃德的女儿玛莎(Marsha) 是我最好的朋友。十几岁的时候,玛莎和我都很任性,但我们非常喜欢参加她母亲去俄罗斯出差回来后举办的聚会。我们会看着沃德和客人们开怀大笑、讲奇闻异事,最重要的是,畅快地喝下伏特加后马上大吃零食。客人的胃得到充分满足,但仍然不断相互祝酒,他们会在喝下伏特加后快速闻一下面包,而不是把面包吃掉。看到此场面,我们都颇为吃惊。

Two decades later I saw the ritual again, this time on primetime television. In an episode of Netflix series House of Cards, the Russian president dines with the US president, and he demonstrates how to drink vodka like a Russian – with sniffs and all. It’s a complicated, theatrical process on the TV show, and not necessarily accurate (“You wouldn’t do that with a posh guest!” Ward exclaimed), but the sharp inhalation is clearly there. Articles were written in response to the episode, suggesting that bread is sniffed to soak up the alcohol and offset the taste of the vodka, while the salt and acid in Russian pickles – like the ones on Ward’s table – help neutralise the alcohol.

二十年后,我又看到了这个场面,这次是在黄金时段的电视节目上。在Netflix的电视剧《纸牌屋》(House of Cards)的其中一集里,俄罗斯总统在和美国总统共进晚餐时演示了如何像俄罗斯人一样喝伏特加,包括闻面包在内的所有要素。在电视上,这是一个复杂、戏剧化的过程,而且不一定准确(沃德尖叫着说,“你不会那么对贵宾的!”),但闻面包用力吸气的动作很明显。评论此集电视剧的文章称闻面包是为了吸收酒精和抵消伏特加的味道,而俄罗斯咸菜,就像沃德餐桌上那些咸菜一样,其中的盐和酸有助于中和酒精。

But according to Ward and her friends, the ritual is not merely medicinal, it also serves a social function; by eating or sniffing bread after the shot, you’re demonstrating that you’re not just knocking back vodka to get drunk. “If you don’t have something to chase the vodka with, like a piece of salty bread or some herring, or, even better, caviar, then you do the sniffing,” Bayliss said. “It’s symbolic.”

但据沃德和她的朋友称,闻面包这种酒礼不仅能起到药物的效果,还有社交作用。喝完酒后吃面包或闻面包表明你猛灌伏特加不是为了喝醉。贝利斯说,“如果喝完伏特加后没有东西可吃,比如咸面包或鲱鱼,鱼子酱更好,那就闻闻面包,这是象征性的。”

Ward agreed: “The sniffing only happens if you’re too poor to have proper food.” Or, of course, too full. Indeed, if you only had a small amount of bread at a gathering, you’d pass it around the table so that each guest could smell the bread in turn.

沃德表示同意:“只有在穷得买不起合适的食物时才会闻面包。”当然,还有太饱了的时候。如果聚会上面包很少,人们会在一桌人之间传递面包,这样每个客人都能闻到。

And if you don’t have any bread at all? “You sniff your sleeve!”

如果根本没有面包呢?“那就闻自己的袖子!”

Accordingly, we took the first shot of the party: Misha made a gracious toast, the ice-cold vodka slipped down smoothly and we followed it with a big bite of black bread and butter. Several drinks later, and quite merry, we each tore off a piece of bread and gave it a good sniff.

于是,我们喝下了这次聚会的第一杯伏特加:米沙发表了一通优美的祝酒词,冰冷的伏特加喝下肚,口感顺滑,接着我们咬下一大口黑面包和黄油。几杯酒下肚后,我们每个人都兴高采烈地撕下一块面包,然后使劲地闻。

There are firm rules, then, regarding how one drinks vodka in Russia. But equally important is why one drinks vodka. In Russia, it’s a supremely social activity; Russian parties take place around the table, and drinking should be a group activity, never a private pleasure. The zakuski (snacks) are there to be shared, and you must help yourself, not wait to be offered. Ward even shared an apocryphal Russian story about two American spies drinking vodka; their cover was blown by the fact that they were not chomping zakuski as they drank.

随后,就是关于俄罗斯人怎么喝伏特加,这是有严格规矩的。但同样重要的是人们为什么要喝伏特加。在俄罗斯,这是极具社交属性的活动。俄罗斯的聚会是围着桌子畅饮笑谈,喝酒应该是一种集体活动,而不是个人娱乐。聚会上的零食是用来分享的,必须自己主动,而不是等着别人拿给你。沃德甚至讲了一个真实性存疑的俄罗斯故事,是关于两个美国间谍喝伏特加的。他们因为没有一边喝酒一边吃零食而暴露了自己的身份。

Then there’s the act of toasting itself. Misha was animated and emphatic about its significance. “If you drink, you need to say something!” he said. “It’s not like [in England], where everybody sits in his corner. We are together! So there needs to be something for everybody. It helps people to feel that they’re united.”

然后是祝酒这个行为。谈到祝酒的重要性,米沙情绪高涨,强调祝酒的意义。他说,“要喝酒,就要说点什么!不像(在英国),每个人都坐在自己的角落里独酌。我们欢聚一堂!所以需要说一些话给在场的每一个人。向大家祝酒会让人感觉彼此是团结相连。”

In the former Soviet republic of Georgia, toasts are such elaborate affairs that professional toasters may be hired for special functions. Russian toasts, by contrast, are simple – at least, that’s the idea. That day, enthusiastic toasts were made for our meeting together, for the beautiful women at the table and to the health of the Queen. Misha led the toasts and everyone followed with a hearty ‘Poyekhali!’ (‘Let’s go!’), as popularised by the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin who exclaimed it when his spacecraft took off in 1961.

在前苏联加盟共和国格鲁吉亚,祝酒要精心设计,因此可能会为了特殊的目的而聘请职业祝酒人。相比之下,俄罗斯的祝酒很简单,至少他们认为是简单的。那天,人们为我们的聚会、为桌上美丽的女士们、为英女王的健康,频频热情举杯。米沙带头祝酒,每个人都跟着发出一声由衷的“Poyekhali!”(干杯!)。这句话是被苏联宇航员加加林(Yuri Gagarin)带火的。1961年,他在自己驾驶的宇宙飞船起飞时喊的就是这句话。

Clearly, Russians have a deep affection for vodka. Even the name of the drink is endearing – ‘voda’ means water, and ‘vodka’, its diminutive, translates to ‘little water’. But there is a dark side to drinking vodka in Russia, too. Historically, alcoholism has been rife in Russia, and vodka (or whatever you could get your hands on) offered an escape from the harshness of everyday life. “It could be such hell in the Soviet Union,” Ward said.

显然,俄罗斯人对伏特加这种酒有着深厚的感情。连其名都很令人感到亲切——“voda”的意思是水,其昵称“vodka”翻译过来就是“小水”的意思。但在俄罗斯,喝伏特加也有黑暗面。在历史上,酗酒在俄罗斯很普遍,伏特加(或者任何你能弄到的不管什么酒)能让人逃避日常生活的艰辛。沃德说。“苏联时代酗酒情况可能糟透了。”

Indeed, before Bayliss married an Englishman and Misha and Anna moved to the UK to join her, Misha’s ‘classified’ job meant that he couldn’t leave the country. “We were accustomed to this way of life, but of course it wasn’t normal,” said Misha, of their life in Soviet-era Russia. “We regularly listened to the BBC, Voice of America, and we know there is a different life. But, you’re born in this, so you know you can’t go anywhere.” Anna nodded in agreement. “That was like dreaming of the impossible.”

确实,在贝利斯嫁给一个英国人,然后米沙和安娜来英国和她团聚之前,米沙从事的“机密”工作意味着他不能离开俄罗斯。米沙谈到他们在苏联时代的俄罗斯生活时说,“我们习惯了这种生活方式,不过当然这不是正常的生活。我们经常听BBC、美国之音,我们知道有不一样的生活方式。但是,你生在那里,所以你知道自己哪儿都去不了。”安娜点头表示同意。“就像做不可能的梦一样。”

The Ivanovs recounted stories of privation and party privilege without so much as a shred of drama or self-pity. "You had access to things, or didn’t have access," Anna said. "You need to go and pay for something? You find a party function. You go to the shop and you can’t buy any shoes, but there is a special department for party bosses and KGB bosses." But despite these memories, there was a great warmth to the Russian traditions we shared at the table that day, from the act of toasting to recounting old Russian stories and jokes.

他们夫妇两讲述了一些苏联时代人民贫困和政党特权的故事,既不夸张也不自悲自怜。安娜说,“有些东西能弄到,有些弄不到。需要买东西?你会发现苏联共党的本事。去商店买不到任何鞋子,但却有一个专门为党和克格勃(KGB)大佬服务的部门。”尽管留下了这些不快的回忆,但那天我们在餐桌上也分享到他们对俄罗斯传统的巨大热情,从敬酒行为到讲古老的俄罗斯故事和笑话。

“Somebody brought sardines to dinner,” Ward said, “and when the hostess opened them they were so old that they were no longer edible. And the person who brought them said, ‘I’m so sorry you misunderstood – those weren’t eating sardines, those were gifting sardines!’”

沃德说,“有客人带了沙丁鱼来赴宴, 当女主人打开时,发现沙丁鱼已经过期不能吃了。带沙丁鱼来的那位客人说:‘抱歉你误会了,那不是用来吃的,是用来送人的!’”

It was time for another toast, and Misha had now taken to standing to deliver his words – these ones to absent friends. The vodka was knocked back, chunks of bread were seized and forks were plunged into salty fish. Everyone around the table was pink-cheeked and satisfied. As the afternoon melted into evening, Misha observed, stoically, “Vodka is like a knife. It’s not good, it’s not bad. You can do anything with a knife. Cut meat, cut bread – with a special knife you can make operation. But another knife can kill a person; the knife is not to be blamed.”

该进行下一轮祝酒了。米沙现在已经习惯站着发言了,这些话是说给不在场的朋友的。我们大口喝伏特加,大块吃面包,用叉子吃咸鱼。桌上的每个人都喝得面颊绯红,心满意足。夜幕降临时,米沙淡然地说:“伏特加就像一把刀。不好,也不坏。你可以用刀做任何事情。切肉,切面包,特制的刀还可以做手术。刀也可以杀人,但不能该怪罪于刀。”

He paused. “So, the same with vodka. It’s a drink, it’s not bad, it’s not good. If you know, you know. Everything is okay.”

他略顿了顿后说,“同样,我们也不能怪罪于伏特加。饮酒,不能以好坏而论。如你知道这一点,就一切都明白了。”

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