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Monday, February 7, 2011

An Excerpt from the Journals of Graf Georg von Ziger

February 7th, 1874. Ochamchira, Abkhazia, Russia.

Traveling to have the Halcyon refitted in Timbuktu. Departing Archangelsk was an enjoyable experience—the ladies out with handkerchiefs a-waving for us were motivation to redouble our efforts in the destruction of piracy. We have landed today in Ochamchira, a coastal town on the Black Sea.

Captain Thibodeau has granted us 1 day's shore leave, and I have spent it among the lowest of the low. Dockworkers, prostitutes, clockwork pickers... the criminal element seems to like me when I am not in uniform.

Walking the streets with a group of ruffians who called themselves the "zavodnoĭ ubiĭtsy"—they say it means "clockwork killers"—I began to grow hungry. I commented upon this state to my newfound companions and they escorted me to one of the more cosmopolitan corners of the poor quarter, a through-way for the sailors, aviators, and travelers—poor and wealthy alike—going between the Zeppelin docks and the rail depot. A man stood on the corner, a small boiler beside him. It appeared to be powering the machinery of a workhouse, but he had managed to vent some of the steam through pipes to a series of plates in front of him. On each stood a stack of pans with perforated bases, appearing to be some sort of straining device, like a colander, but flat-bottomed, like a fry-pan. These pipes and plates served to direct the steam shunted from the engine up through the perforated pans, providing a steaming apparatus usable for cooking.

Street food is fascinating. The gentleman, having characteristics both of a Chinaman and a Turk, was cooking several items in the various plates. Buns, dumplings, and even meat items were being prepared for sale—at reasonable rates—to the passers-by, rich and poor alike. Simple food, but delicious. I made note of the different foods I ate, and I have endeavored to re-create the recipes in the kitchen of the Halcyon.

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