I remember the ninety-second, third, fourth and part of the fifth years as a period of extravagant poverty. Hunger is not hunger, but no one in our company certainly didn’t need Afisha-Ed magazine. But the excess of free time, combined with a lack of money, led to strange meals in suspicious places at someone else’s unexpected expense. The future Food editor and I reached a peak in this kind of adventures when we found ourselves one night in the flat of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. Well, not exactly at his place – his son lived there, with whom we were not even in touch, but a mutual acquaintance. Anyway, we happened to have the keys. I think it was there to water the flowers, or maybe to entertain the cat, I can’t remember. The mayor was not at home. Neither was my son, or a mutual acquaintance, for that matter. On the positive side, the nineties were a time of unlimited opportunity – in what other country in the world could twenty-somethings with no specific occupation hang out in the flat of the third man in the country? We spent a couple of days there – we didn’t want to be seen in front of the concierge, and we didn’t really need the street realities either, as we had a fridge which was eloquently stocked with perfectly poster food – there was a basturma from Zurab Tsereteli, for example. Under the ceiling, gift cognacs and liqueurs in bottles shaped like guns and towers were piled on the cupboard. I recall an enormous chunk of venison, beaten quail, and some cottage cheese from some Yeltsin’s estate. I think it had the word “Yeltsin” written right on the jar. We did not dare to open the “Yeltsin” jar, but we roasted the venison and quail and ate them with our youthful impudence.
There was such a short time and such a short age when food served as an adventure, a reckless need, a throw-away action (a fellow drummer of mine ate a cat, after all), or an elementary snack. There was anything but the sensation of actual food. Everything stray we lived and ate was a pleasant thing. But stray has no taste. And in that occasional nomenclature munchies I remembered only the feeling of shot on my teeth. Those distinctly Axakian pellets from Luzhkov’s quail remain for me the only gastronomic sign of those years. It is likely, though, that we simply didn’t roast those birds properly.