Sveta and Sasha have arrived in Barcelona, and so far Sveta‘s voicemails indicate a general lack of panic. Then again, they landed 2 hours ago, and she’s already left 4 messages, so her collected tone may belie inner turmoil.

Prior to leaving (in the wee hours this morning), Sveta showed me all the food that she had procured to hold me over while I’m gone. She provided detailed instructions for the breakfast dishes that are in her repertoire:

      1. Kasha – boil grains and add sugar to taste. Eat.

      2. Tvorog with sour cream – mix tvorog with sour cream and sugar to taste. Eat.

      3. Grated carrot apple salad – grate carrot and apple and add sugar to taste. Eat.

      4. Tea – make tea and add sugar to taste. Drink.

Not super complicated, but since she seemed to think the tutorial was necessary, I rolled with it. Then came the kicker: she had asked her sister, Tanya, to come over and check in on me (which I had expected) and to boil me food (which I had not expected–and yes, she did say “boil” instead of “cook,” which adds to the absurdity of the whole situation). “But I’m 26,” I protested, “I can cook my own food. I do it all the time.” Still, Sveta insisted. On previous encounters, Tanya had expressed her disbelief that I don’t cook for myself, and I had explained the impossibility of the situation to her. I think she even believed me. And now this. If I argued further, Sveta would be offended. If I didn’t argue further, Tanya would think I was a waste of carbon. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Preferring to deal in the concrete rather than the abstract, I consented (as if my consent had ever had any bearing) and resolved to cook a giant meal with lots of leftovers first thing, so that when Tanya came by and tried to boil my pel’meni for me, I could turn the tables and offer her a smorgasbord surpassing her wildest boullion-y daydreams. That would show her. I opted for a Thanksgiving theme and set off for the market this morning after breakfasting on not-kasha for the first time in months. In continuing celebration of my new independence, I wore my ballet flats rather than my clunky boots. This was symbolic of the recognition that I, as an adult human, of sound mind and in possession of a weather app, can decide how cold I wish or do not wish to be. I set off for the market, feeling very much in control.

It was a pleasant day for shopping. Although there was no sage or cumin to be had anywhere, the vegetable woman was chatty, and the herb guy commented that I must really like herbs, since I come to him “all the time” (a true statement, if “all the time” is synonymous with “once two weeks ago when he was the only person selling basil”), and the persimmon lady didn’t lie about the ripeness of her wares.

Weighed down with more vegetables than one person can reasonably expect to eat in a week, I had almost completed the slushy journey home when my phone rang. It was Tanya. “Katja, where are you? Did you go to the university?” No, I went shopping. I’m on the way home now. “Will you be long?” No, I’m just around the corner. “Ok. I dropped by to see you. I’ll wait here and say hi before I take off.” Okay sounds great kay thanks buh-bye.

The apartment door was unlocked, but Tanya was in the living room when I arrived. I slipped my slush-covered shoes off and tucked them out of sight under a shelf, shouted a greeting, and went into the kitchen to unload my bags. “What is that?” I heard from the hall. Peeking through the door, I saw Tanya hovering over a trail of prints left by my damp right foot. “Did you go outside in shoes [as opposed to boots]? Don’t you know it’s winter? And you just having gotten over a sickness, too. Who’s going to take care of you if you get sick again? No one’s here to come for you. Go change right now. Quickly! Run, run! You need to rest more. What were you thinking? I used to wear little foolish shoes in the winter, and my feet are no longer what they once were. Don’t go outside like that again. If you do, I’ll take away your shoes.”

I’d like to see you try.

My relationship with my adultsitter was not off to a good start. She calmed down somewhat as I unpacked the bags, only scolding me once, for buying a pumpkin (“They have pumpkins! Why don’t you eat their pumpkins? Sasha would have cut it for you before he left!” – of course, the indignity of not being allowed to cut my own pumpkin was exactly why I had chosen to buy one, but explaining that would have cost time and earned me nothing). Tanya was impressed to see a chicken defrosting on the counter (What, is that difficult? In Russia in winter, actually, yes, a little). Apparently only Real Grown-Ups cook chickens. She asked what I was cooking, and I told her a little about Thanksgiving. Why don’t you come over tomorrow for supper, and I’ll show you? She accepted with a rare smile,held eye contact with me as she donned her wool-lined boots, and left.

Oh God.

Tomorrow I must prove my worth.

If she tries to throw my stuffing out like Sveta and Sasha always do, I will punch her nose. 

I immediately got to work roasting the squash, making the stuffing, and making “cranberry sauce” out of some currants I found in the back of the freezer. A few hours later, when the squash was still roasting, Tanya called and asked me to be “a little more careful” with the gas cooking implements.

I am beyond confused. The oven had been running for about an hour and a half, but because it had been in use the whole time. It was not at an unreasonably high temperature. Nothing was burning. Was this a precautionary “a little more careful,” a syntactic quirk masking a mere reminder to exercise caution in general? Or is she somehow remotely monitoring my gas usage? Is that information even available? Is there an app for that now? Big Brother, are you there? And if so, are you hungry?