Book 4. Co-creation (1999)
Dining in taiga
Each time I visited Anastasia in the taiga, I would invariably take along things to eat. I would take preserves, hermetically sealed biscuits in a plastic wrap and sliced fish fillet in a vacuum pack. And each time when I got ready for the trip back, I would find my reserve supplies unused. And each time she would slip some treats into my backpack. These generally consisted of nuts, fresh berries wrapped in leaves, and dried mushrooms.
Russians are accustomed to eating mushrooms — well boiled, fried, marinated or salted. Anastasia eats them in their dried, natural state, without any processing. At first I was afraid to even try them — then I tried them, and they were okay Once a piece of mushroom is softened from the saliva in the mouth, you can suck on it like candy or swallow it. Later I even got so I liked it.
One time I was travelling from Moscow to Gelendzhik by car for a readers’ conference. The whole trip I lived on mushrooms Anastasia had given me. Alexander Solntsev, the director of the Moscow Anastasia Centre, was at the wheel and he ate some of the mushrooms, too. And during my talk at the conference I invited the audience to try them, and people didn’t shy away. They kept taking one piece each until my supply ran out, and ate it on the spot, and nothing bad happened to any of them.
In fact, I don’t remember any occasion during my visits with Anastasia where we actually sat down for the specific purpose of eating. Whatever Anastasia offered me, I would just try on the spot, and I never felt any real sensation of hunger. But this once...
At the time I was probably too engrossed in pondering the meaning of Anastasia’s prayer to notice how she managed to spread such a huge table, if, indeed, one can call it that.
There on the grass, on a variety of leaves both large and small, lay a host of delicacies. They filled an area larger than a square metre in size. And everything was beautifully laid out with tasteful decor — cranberries, huckleberries, cloudberries, raspberries, black and red currants, dried strawberries, dried mushrooms, some kind of yellowish paste, three small cucumbers and two medium-sized red tomatoes. These lay among a multitude of clumps of herbs, decorated with floral petals. Some sort of white liquid, looking not unlike milk, stood in a little hollowed-out wooden bowl. I couldn’t tell what the scones were made of. There was honey in the comb, too, strewn with multicoloured grains of pollen dust.
“Seat yourself down, Vladimir, try this God-given daily bread,” Anastasia invited, with that sly smile of hers.
“Wow!” I couldn’t restrain myself from exclaiming. “That’s really something! And you’ve laid it all out so beautifully! Just like a good mistress of a feast.”
Anastasia bubbled with child-like joy at my praise. Then she burst out in laughter, her eyes still fixed on the ‘table’ she had laid out. All at once she threw up her hands in the air and exclaimed:
“Oh-oh! You see, here I am supposed to be a good feast- mistress and yet I have gone and forgotten my spices. You like a lot of hot spices, do you not? You like them, yes?”
“And here this ‘good feast-mistress’ has gone and forgotten them. Give me just a moment. I shall correct my mistake.” She took a look around her, ran off a little ways and tore off part of a herb, then did the same in another place. Then she reached into the bushes and tore off something else, and presently laid her find down amongst the cucumbers and tomatoes — a little bouquet-like clump of various herbs. Then she explained:
“These are spices. They are hot. Try them if you like. Now we have everything. Take a taste of everything, Vladimir.”
I picked up a cucumber, surveyed the variety of taiga foods spread out before me and said:
“Pity there’s no bread.”
“Bread there is,” Anastasia responded. “Look here.” And she handed me some kind of tuber. “This is a burdock root. I prepared it specially so you would find it a replacement for tasty bread and potatoes and carrots.”
“I never heard of burdock being used for food.”
“Try it. Not to worry — in times past people used it to make a great many tasty and healthful dishes. Try just a small bite first. I have been keeping it in milk, to soften it.”
I was about to ask where she got the milk, but once I took a bite of the cucumber... I couldn’t say another word until I had finished it off — and without bread yet. I took the bread- replacement tuber from Anastasia, but I could only hold it in my hand without trying it until I had finished eating the cucumber.
You see, this ordinary-looking cucumber was utterly different in taste from any I had ever eaten before. This taiga cucumber had a pleasant unique fragrance. Tou’re no doubt aware that cucumbers grown in hothouses taste quite different from those raised in garden beds in the open air. The ones growing in the open have a significantly superior taste and fragrance. But Anastasia’s cucumber surpassed all the open-air cucumbers I had tasted before, and possibly by an even greater margin of difference.
I quickly picked up a tomato, tried it and polished it off on the spot. Its taste, too, was extraordinarily delicious. Like the cucumber, it was far tastier than any other tomato I had ever eaten. Neither of them required any salt, sour cream or salad oil. They were delicious in and of themselves. Just like a raspberry, or an apple or an orange. Nobody would ever think of either sweetening or salting an apple or a pear.
“Where did you get these vegetables, Anastasia? Did you run down to the village? What kind are they?”
“I grew them myself. You liked them, did you not?” she asked.
“Like them?!! I’ve never had any like these before! That means you’ve got a garden plot, or a hothouse? What kind of tools do you use to dig your beds? Where do you get fertiliser — at the village?”
“The only thing I got at the village was some seeds from a woman I know there. I prepared a spot to plant them among the herbs, and they grew. The tomatoes I planted in the autumn, then hid them under the snow, and come springtime they began growing. The cucumbers I planted in the spring, and they — those little ones — managed to ripen.”
“But what makes them so delicious? Is it some new variety?” “Just an ordinary variety They are different from those grown in a typical garden plot only because they were provided with everything they needed during their growth period. In garden-plot conditions, when people try to isolate their plants from contact with other species and accelerate their growth by using fertiliser, the plants are unable to take in everything they need to become self-sufficient and please Man.” ‘And where do you get your milk? How do you make your scones? I thought you didn’t use any kind of food from animals, and yet here you’ve got milk...”
“That milk is not from animals, Vladimir. The milk you see before you is from a cedar.”
“How d’you mean, from a cedar? Can a tree actually give milk?”
“It can. Only not all trees, by any means. But cedars, for example, can. Try it — there is so much included in this drink. The cedar milk before you can nourish more than just your body. Do not drink it all at once — try one or two sips, otherwise it will fill you up so much that you will not want anything else.”
I took three sips. The milk was thick, with a pleasant, slightly sweet taste to it. I also felt a warmth from it, but not the same as from warmed cow’s milk. This tender, inexplicable warmth ran through my whole insides and, I think, changed my mood at the same time.
“This cedar milk is delicious, Anastasia. Delicious indeed! But how does one ‘milk’ a cedar, to get this liquid?”
“There is no ‘milking’ involved. You must keep grinding the milk kernels of the nut with a special stick in a wooden mortar — calmly, thoughtfully, with a good attitude. And you keep adding water — little by little — living spring water... and you end up with the milk.”
‘Are you saying people have never known about this before?” “Many people knew about it in times past, though even today people in the little taiga villages sometimes drink cedar milk. People in cities prefer a different kind of diet altogether — one less healthful but more suitable for the purposes of conserving, transporting and cooking.”
“What you say is quite correct. When you live in a city you have to do everything quicldy. But this milk... Wow! What kind of tree is this cedar?! The cedar all by itself can give us nuts and oil, and flour for scones... and milk!”
‘And there are lot of other unusual things that the cedar can supply”
“What unusual things, for example?”
“You can make superb perfume from its ether oil. Self-sufficient, healthful perfume. Nothing artificial can come even close to its fragrance. The ethers of the cedar represent the spirit of the Universe. They can cure the body — the ethers of the cedar can protect Man from harmful influences.”
“Can you tell me how to extract perfume like that from the cedar?”
“I can, of course, but now you, Vladimir, should have a little more to eat.”
I reached out my hand to take another tomato, but Anastasia stopped me.
“Wait, Vladimir, not that.”
“How d’you mean?”
“I prepared a variety of things for you, so that you could first take a taste of everything, so that it might cure you.”
“What might cure me?”
“Your own body. Once you try a bit of everything, the body itself selects what it needs. You will feel like eating more of what you have chosen. Your body itself will determine what it needs.”
Wow! — I thought — for the first time she’s gone against her own principles.
What happened was that twice before Anastasia had cured me of some internal ailments. What kind of ailments, exactly, I don’t know, but I used to get bad pains in my stomach, or my liver, or my kidneys. Or maybe all of them at once. The pains were bad, and painkillers didn’t always help. But I knew that when I came to see Anastasia, she would cure me — something she does very quickly.
But on the third occasion she refused to treat me. She didn’t even completely remove the pain with her gaze, saying that if I wasn’t going to change my lifestyle or eliminate what was causing me to be ill, there was no point in treating me,
since in that case the treatment would only harm me. I got really angry at her and never asked her for treatment again.
After returning home, I did find myself cutting back a little on the amount of smoking and drinking I indulged in. I even fasted for several days, and felt better. And then the thought came: we don’t have to go to a doctor or some other healer every time we feel ill — we can take hold of our own selves when we feel pain pressing down upon us. Of course it would be best for it to not press down at all. I wasn’t able to cure myself completely, but I decided not to ask Anastasia for help. However, she agreed to treat me, all on her own.
“But you did say you wouldn’t give me any more treatment or even take away the pain.”
“I shall not take away your pain any longer. Pain is a con-versation between God and Man. But, I can now... since I am just offering you food — that does not go against Nature, although it does go against them ”
“The ones who thought up the regime that is so harmful to Man.”
“What harmful regime? What are you getting at?”
‘At the fact that you, Vladimir, like the majority of people, feed yourself according to an established dietary regime. A very harmful regime.”
“I guess some people follow a kind of regime. There are lots of diets out there — for losing weight, or for gaining weight. But I eat what I want. I never read up on any regime. I go into a store and I pick out what I like.”
“That is right: you go into a store and choose, but your choice is restricted to what is offered by the store.”
“Well, yes. In stores today everything’s neatly prepackaged. Because of the tremendous competition, all the producers nowadays try to please the consumer, and do everything for the consumer’s convenience.”
“Do you think it is all done for the consumer’s со ience?”
“Sure — for who else?”
‘All systems under a technocratic way of living invariably work only for themselves, Vladimir. Do you consider it ‘convenient’ to get those lifeless frozen or tinned foods, or water that is half-dead? Was it your body that determined the selection of foodstuffs available in grocery stores and supermarkets?
“The technocratic world’s system has taken upon itself the role of supplying you with the necessities of life. Tou have agreed to this, you have complete faith in it, to the point that you have even ceased to wonder whether you have been supplied with all the necessities.”
“But we’re still alive — we aren’t dying from using these stores!”
“Of course you are still alive. But the pain! Where do you think your pain comes from? Think about where pain comes from with the majority of people. Disease and pain are not natural for Man, they are the effect of choosing the wrong path in life. Now you will be persuaded of that for yourself. Here before you lies just a small sampling of what the Divine Nature has created for Man. Just try a little bit of each thing, and then take what you like with you. Three days is sufficient for these little herbs — which you yourself will select — to overcome your pains.”
I began trying a little of everything while Anastasia was still speaking. Some of the clumps of herbs were tasteless, while others I felt like eating more of. Before my departure Anastasia put the things I had taken a liking to into my backpack. I ate them over a three-day period. And the pain completely disappeared.