Some fast for Lent (the 40 days before Easter, which doesn't always correspond to Western Easter, although this year both Orthodox and Western Easters are on April 4th). It’s called the Great Fast [Velikii Post] in Russian, to differentiate from the other fasts that occur throughout the ecclesiastic calendar (for example, during Advent). Their fasting is also different than the kind that developed in Western Europe under Catholicism. I’m not even sure what all of the rules are – I know there’s a vegetarian element, and other restrictions apply.
That knowledge informs this story.
I went to the closest thing to a “diner” there is in Moscow for a quick lunch around 3 pm (this is at one of my archives, which is located about a mile away from the metro. I bring a banana or something light to snack on, and then get something more substantial when I’m center-bound). I ordered some borshch [hearty beet soup] and grechka [short for grechnevaia kasha, or buckwheat] when I heard this conversation behind me:
Scary Old Babushka: Do you have any Lenten goluptsy? [Meat wrapped in a rice-crepe]But there’s another way to say “shame on you” - Kak vam ne stydno? - which is much less severe, especially when we take into account the shock and rage that was in the S.O.B.’s voice. (I’m having too much fun with that abbreviation.)
S.O.B.: Grex na vas! [lit. “Sin on you!” Figuratively, then: “Shame on you.”]
The best part is that the S.O.B. didn’t end up ordering something else on the menu, like the vegetable soup, or the grechka, both of which automatically qualify as “kosher” on the Lenten menu. She got the non-Lenten goluptsy.
Because it wasn’t her job to figure out creative ways to follow the Great Fast. It was the restaurant’s duty to provide her with an easy way to follow the rule set up for her by some patriarchs long ago. There was – and this is, of course, all [rather mean] speculation on my part – no critical thought process as to the whole philosophy of sacrifice and deprivation that is the basis for the Great Fast’s existence.
What an S.O.B.