This week I learned that sharks should be the ones afraid of humans, and not vice versa. Apparently this whole “shark fin soup” is quite popular, and ACTUALLY uses fins (you know how sometimes things have one name, but consist of something else? Yeah, that’s what I thought too). And how do people get those fins? Catch a shark, cut their fin off, throw them back in the sea to DIE. They’ll sink and contaminate the rest of the ocean. That’s pretty freaking sad. About 70 million sharks are killed each year. Poor sharks.

Apparently the same thing was done to elephants, for their ivory tusks (fact: the best piano are those whose keys are made of ivory :/ ). I’ll be honest…I’m sure my family possess something made of ivory. But I do know for a fact my piano DOES NOT have ivory keys….otherwise I would have lost an arm and a leg on that.

There’s a difference between torturing animals and using them for one’s own survival, and sadly humans aren’t quite to blame so much as the cultures that have evolved over time. Apparently shark fin soup is huge in Chinese culture. Imagine what your culture is so used to doing, and now you can’t do that anymore. That’s pretty tough, even though it is something as gross as humiliating animals.

I once asked my mother over break why Russian aren’t really vegetarians, as she’s always telling me to eat more veggies. She practically scoffed at me. Yes, I should have thought about my question before she started telling me Russia really only has 3 vegetables: cucumbers, cabbage, and tomatoes (oh and I guess potatoes but that’s like one of the main parts of a dish). During the winter, Russia has: pickled cucumbers, pickled tomatoes, and pickled cabbage, and by pickled I mean marinated (well, that’s the word we use in Russian, and by marinated I don’t mean soaking in sauce overnight, waiting to be grilled the next day). Sometimes you could have pickled potato. So being a vegetarian was clearly out of the question. No way could you survive on these three things alone, especially with the cold, cold winters. What in the world was going to help you make energy to survive the next winter day…not even your fur jacket. And vodka wasn’t something that you could count on to keep you warm, especially when you’re starving. There was lots of kasha to enjoy – buckwheat, barley, lots of grains you could make Russian oatmeal from that didn’t require  much. I feel that when you say oatmeal, people have one consistent idea what that could be, and that it’s one consistency. In Russia, however, the type of kasha (oatmeal) you get depends on the grains you used and whether they were raw or not. I don’t recall the proper names of the grains at this moment, but I can think of 3 different types of Russian oatmeal, or kasha, that I have eaten at home. And not all of it is liquid-y or creamy. Some is more firm, like the shape of Israeli cous cous, but firmer, which you could eat for meals besides breakfast and along with sausages or meat. So when I explain that to someone, they tell me it’s not oatmeal. I know it’s not. It’s kasha. I just can’t explain it to you any further!

And also, when your country had to go through a blockade that caused about 2 years of starvation, with millions of death due to starvation, I don’t think people are going to limit what they eat, especially under a government that was only a true democracy for about 6 months in 1917, under a government where tomorrow it seems like it’s helping you, but the next day, it’s ready to kill you. Most relatives died during this blockade due to starvation. Out of all the illnesses out there, can you imagine saying “he/she died of starvation.” That is quite possibly the worst way to go. During this blockade, you only received, at best, 200 grams of bread, about a cup, that was your meal for the day. And sometimes there wasn’t even enough bread to go around, after spending all day waiting in line.

After I heard this story, I realized how difficult it is for Russians to be nit picky about what they will and won’t eat. Potatoes were very common, and as were soups, which could be easily made from the pickled cucumbers, tomatoes, and cabbage (one oh my favorite soups 🙂 And meat, or even meat bones sufficed, were common in the soups. There’s something about them that added meaning to the soups. Meat was big in Russia, when one could hunt for it or purchase it in better times. When we say meat, that is inclusive of lots of meat, Мясо is not chicken and not fish, oh, and it’s not fancy delicatessens like duck or rabbit. It’s veal, beef, etc. Duck and rabbits were delicatessens, but they were probably more commonly consumed than chicken, I imagine (I’m not picturing how many chickens could survive in the cold, whereas rabbits had fur to keep them safe-r). On that note, we Russians sure do love our fur! I honestly can’t imagine what else could have kept us warm and prevented us from dying from the cold, particularly in places like Siberia. I know it’s bad of people to do this, but otherwise a whole country would be wiped out. Now some might say that’s for the better considering how many people populate this earth, but at the same time, that would be awful. It’s bad enough the Russian population is already dying out.

That’s some food for thought.