Whenever I stare at an empty kitchen, I think of my babushka Lilya. I picture her in her flowery housedress, hands on hips, that half-resigned yet unyielding look in her eyes. It’s the same look she had when I’d bring a school friend over in that awkward time between lunch and dinner, and there was nothing prepared.
My friend and I would sit down. I’d start to pour tea. That’s when my grandmother’s expression would turn to despair.
“How can you!” she’d say in Russian, “How can you just drink empty tea?”
Baba, I’d say, she didn’t come here to eat, and we can order out, no one needs you to cook right now. But she would have none of it.
We’d need to hurry and leave quickly before she’d put out every last scrap of leftovers at the table, telling me “Offer her this” and “It is so shameful to receive guests like this!” and “Why isn’t she eating the pickled cabbage?”