Our couch-surfers had hoped to spend the day in Hot Springs yesterday, visiting Hot Springs National Park, indulging themselves in treatments at the bath houses, visiting the galleries, and otherwise behaving like interested tourists. Instead, they spent the day at our house, hoping the icy roads would thaw enough to permit them to see what they had come to see. It was not to be. Even their attempt to take a short walk around the neighborhood was derailed by ice as slick as glass, resulting in slipping and sliding and falling. The choice was clear: the couch called. So, we spent the day together at our house.
The day started for me as it almost always does; I got up very early, about 3:30 a.m. I had prepared congee the afternoon before, expecting we would eat an early breakfast before they headed out. They opted to sleep in, though, so the congee breakfast was more like a brunch, around 10:30. Instead of cooking ground pork and frying shallots, I put pork fu (dried shredded pork) and packaged fried shallots on the table to flavor the cooked congee, along with sambal oeleek and soy sauce. All of us liked it.
A bit later, after their aborted effort to take a walk, we nibbled, eating cheeses and deli pork and turkey accompanied by flour tortillas, tomatoes, olives, and a few other odds and ends. It was excellent.
They offered to cook dinner for us, which we gladly accepted. They prepared an Uzbek soup, which I believe they called moshurda, which consists of water, a bit of browned beef, rice, carrots, tomatoes, shallots, mung beans, cumin, and salt. When I get the recipe from them, I will post it; the stuff was incredible! Traditionally, in Uzbekistan, it is served with a dollop of Uzbek-style sour cream; we didn’t have any, so we used what we had, Greek yogurt. I can’t say enough about how wonderfully flavorful the soup was. Mimi (the woman), spent considerable time living in Uzbekistan while pursuing her research interests in bird conservation. She is learning the Uzbek language and is fluent in Russian and Mongolian (and, of course, her native English), and is learning Kazakh and Spanish. Her knowledge of Uzbek and Mongolian cooking comes from personal, hands-on experience. Matt is no less impressive in his intellect and his accomplishments.
As they were cooking dinner, they talked about their joint travels around Russian, Mongolia, and Uzbekistan, including their experiences drinking milk-based alcoholic beverages, milk-based hard breakfast “snacks,” and traveling by train and car in an environment utterly different from what we are used to.
After dinner, we decided to sit in front of the fire and watch a movie. We finally settled on The French Connection, the 1971 classic with Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider. Janine went to bed after a while, but Matt and Mimi and I stayed up through the end, sometime after midnight.
As usual, I was up early, at 4:30 this morning. I’ve washed a load of laundry, washed last night’s dinner dishes, cleaned up around the kitchen, hard-boiled some eggs, and posted to this blog. And now, at 8:15, I’m still waiting for everyone else to get up. I’m hungry!