Saturday, 17 March 2012

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh

      I've been busy with other things today, so nothing done on the study. Instead, here are some pictures of a samovar. It was an eBay win, £6.85 plus £10 p&p. Samovars were/are used in Russia,(and some central and middle Eastern countries), to boil water. In the past they were heated by charcoal or coals, placed in a central chimney and surrounded by water, whilst modern samovars have an electrical heating coil (like the element in an electric kettle) - this one is electric but I haven't plucked up enough courage to plug it in yet. I used to drive a Russian car and I have, er, shall we say 'memories' of its electrical system.

It is generally held that the word 'samovar' comes from the Russian Samo - "self" and Varit - "to boil or bake", although there is some argument that it could come from the Tartar word sanabar - meaning "a tea urn". I'm not sure about this, as the tea is not brewed in the samovar itself. The samovar boils the water, but the tea is brewed separately, in a teapot. Sometimes this teapot sits atop the samovar, and is heated by the same heat source, but the tea is poured into a cup or glass and diluted, usually in a ratio of 10:1, with water drawn from the spigot on the samovar.  Some people believe, wrongly, that the tea is brewed in the samovar, as with a Western tea-urn, which is why I question the Tartar etymology above.

I don't drink tea, and never have, although this goes against the stereotypical image of an Englishman, but I have enjoyed mint tea, brewed in the North African fashion, strong and very sweet. Lovely on a hot day. It is traditionally served in a small glass, rather than a cup. To protect your fingers, the glass can be held in a metal container, with a handle, called a zarf. Cups or glasses held by a zarf are known as fingans or finjans. Some people these-days use plastic zarfs to hold the plastic coffee cups dispensed by vending machines. The next time someone gives you coffee in a plastic cup, ask them for a zarf. They deserve to be educated.

OK, it's Paddy's Day. There's stout to be drunk. Sláinte mhaith.

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