Many years ago, I got a plastic tray from my Uncle Gene who had lived in Hawai’i for many years. It was a reproduction of a mural by Eugene Savage who had been commissioned to paint nine of them for the Matson Steamship Line pre-WWII. Although completed, the war broke out and they were never installed on the ships. Reproductions of them were eventually used as used as keepsake menu covers for the SS Lurline – the flagship of the Matson Line. It probably cost him twenty bucks. It wasn’t valuable, just decorative.

This is the image, although it is much brighter than the tray…

For years, the tray had sat downstairs collecting dust until one day I brought it to work with some cookies. It then sat at work until one day when I used it at the demo counter. I kinda kept thinking I would bring it home, and I kinda never did.

A regular customer came in and, speaking to another employee, asked where we had gotten the tray. He knew of Eugene Savage and liked his work. He was told it belonged to me and that was that – until one day when he came in and I was there…

Andrey is from Russia, kinda tall, quiet, and a very genuine person. We’ve chatted in the past, he’s married, and just a nice guy.

We talked for a bit and he said if I ever wanted to part with it, he would love to buy it. I smiled, said it wasn’t for sale, he said okay, and off he went to the cashier. So… a minute later, I’m looking at the tray thinking it’s doing me no good, I don’t have any place at home for it, and if I leave it at work it’s eventually going to fall apart.

He was still at the register so I brought it over and gave it to him.

He was quite taken aback, but it was kinda like one of those Pay-It-Forward situations. So many people have done nice things for me in my life, I need to do a few in return. Besides, I tend to cash in Karma points quicker than I can receive them.

He thanked me profusely and left with a huge smile on his face.

I haven’t seen him since I gave him the tray, but he’s been in quite a few times and has asked a few of my coworkers what he could do to say thank you. My response was nothing, don’t worry about it.  NOT the response someone wants to hear who wants to do something.

So… tonight, after a long, long day – the Sunday Before Christmas – he and his wife came in with a shopping bag. In it, were the things every Russian family has at Christmas!

He could not have come up with a better way to say thanks! What an absolute treat!

First up, is a bottle of a carbonated beverage called Kvass Ochakovskiy. It is made from rye bread and is naturally fermented. It’s considered a non-alcoholic beverage, as it has an alcohol content of less that 1%. As a comparison, non-alcoholic O’Douls is 0.4. It has some unique properties. I am getting it refrigerated, as I speak. Er.. type.

Then there is a huge jar of pickled tomatoes and pickles – from Bulgaria! He said the best pickles in Russia come from Bulgaria. We laughed.

Next is a hunk of halva. Sesame and honey… It’s been a while since I had any. It’s going to be great on the cookie tray!

There’s a can of smoked sprats from the Baltic Sea. Sprats are small fish and contains long-chained polyunsaturated fatty acids. The little blighters are actually good for you!

And, finally, a Poppy Seed Rillet – a poppy seed pastry roll. Andrey said he hoped I didn’t have to take any drug rests soon – so many poppy seeds will make me test positive!

Fortunately, I won’t have to!

I am really thrilled beyond thrilled! It’s no secret that I just love food and I have a great affinity for foods of other lands. I have always believed that food is the great equalizer, and we can learn so much from one another if we sit down to a meal together and share our foods and traditions.

A gift like this just warms my heart to no end.

I can’t wait for Christmas Eve! Our Feast of the Seven Fishes will now be Eight. I’ll toast with Kvass, have pickles and pickled tomatoes along with the antipasti, and halva and poppy seed roll will be out with trays of cookies and other sweets.

Thank you, Andrey and Irina!

С Рождеством! – Merry Christmas!