Vodka: More Than Floor Polish

 

shutterstock_177572543This is the second in an occasional series concerning the role of vodka in Russian life and culture. It is offered primarily for its practical value, and not in the spirit of building bridges of peace and understanding through positive dialogue between peoples, and so forth. In my experience, positive dialogue and greater understanding are likely to lead to more mutual scorn, contempt and low regard, not less.

As I explained in the first post in this series, Russians have a deep and dysfunctional love affair with vodka. To a Russian, vodka is not just an efficient vehicle for delivery of alcohol into the bloodstream: it is an all-purpose tonic for life’s physical and spiritual ills.

But there’s more. Vodka is also the Swiss Army knife of distilled spirits. It is a sort of cross between holy water, peyote, and duct tape. The following is actual folk wisdom from the Russian internet regarding vodka’s many uses. Please understand, I am not claiming that it is good advice. I offer it for entertainment purposes only and make no representations or warranties regarding the safety or effectiveness of these uses. Also, by reading through to the end of this sentence, you agree to waive all claims of liability against me and assume all risk in connection therewith.

The voice inside your head reading what follows  should be that of Michelle Pfeiffer as Katya in The Russia House. I did the best I could with the translation.

Here we go.

  1. It is necessary to consume vodka three times per week in amount of 1 gram per kilogram of body weight. You must administer this dosage in the evening before supper. This will facilitate the cleansing of organism from unnecessary substances. [The dosage here works out to approximately 0.017 fl. oz. per pound. So if you weigh 150 lb, you must drink 68 grams (2.6 fl. oz.) of vodka thrice weekly, as John Kerry might put it. As Russian internet folk wisdom goes, this seems low. But what I love about this advice is its geometric precision. The golden ratio is precisely 1:1 when expressed in metric units. It’s like some kind of universal constant. Except that every other universal constant I know of is an irrational number. Weird. –O]
  2. To lower cholesterol, recommend doctors to consume 20-30 ml. of vodka every day (but not single more drop!).
  3. It is interesting fact. About ten years ago, there was beauty contest in Georgia for women over 90 years old. First place was won (first of all it was judged physical appearance and health status) by woman of 98 years old. In interview, she said that for last 20 years every day she drank 50 grams vodka! Therefore, it follows that moderate consumption of vodka slows down process of aging. [And all this time you thought it was the yogurt. I assume they’re not talking about Macon, Georgia. Also, this seems somewhat at odds with the dosages indicated in the first two items of this list. –O]
  4. To reduce the fever of a child, is important to rub his body with vodka, have him drink some hot tea with raspberry preserves, and go to bed. Fever will go down. This works for adults as well, also.
  5. To get rid of ear ache, put several drops of vodka inside ear, wait several minutes and rinse. Vodka will kill bacteria causing inflammation and pain.
  6. To remove adhesive bandage from wound without pain, is necessary to soak it with vodka; it will dissolve glue.
  7. To clean tile putty in bathrooms and showers, is mandatory to put vodka in spray bottle and spray on surface. Wait exactly five minutes and wipe off. The alcohol in vodka will kill mold, mildew, fungus, and other microbes. Also, if you spray vodka on kitchen faucet with hard water stains on it, then wipe off with dry cloth, your faucet will shine like new.
  8. To clean glasses, is possible to rub them with cloth lightly soaked in vodka. This will clean lens and kill bacteria.
  9. Extend life of shaving razors by soaking them in glass of vodka after using. The vodka will disinfect blade and prevent rust. [All you Harry’s Shave users, take note. –O]
  10. Is possible to spray vodka on vomit stains, rub them with brush, then pat dry. Also, please to apply vodka to stains containing lipids and send garment to cleaners. The stains will vanish without trace. [Like certain comrades did in 1937-1953. On that, please see this awesome book. –O]
  11. Using a piece of cotton soaked in vodka, apply it to your face as astringent; it will cleanse skin and constrict pores.
  12. Is convenient to add small glass of vodka to bottle containing your favorite shampoo. Alcohol will remove toxins from hair and stimulate its growth. Also, shampoo will be more effective if you add 50 ml of vodka to it. This will reduce the oiliness of your hair, improve its growth and cure dandruff.
  13. Fill plastic bag with 1:1 mixture of vodka and water and freeze. Now you have portable ice element; it will rescue you when you go on picnic or to your dacha. You can also use it to relieve pain and get rid of bruises.
  14. Does your kitchen have fruit gnats? Mix 30 ml of vodka, 3-4 drops of dish soap and 400 ml of water. Wipe this mixture around place where you find gnats and they will voluntarily leave your flat.
  15. Fill mayonnaise jar with fresh lavender flowers, cover with vodka, screw on the lid and leave out in the sun for three days. Strain through cheesecloth. The resulting tincture may be used as medicine for the soothing of the joints and muscle pains. [Unclear whether this is for internal or external use. –O]
  16. Create your own mouthwash by mixing ten tablespoons of ground cinnamon in a glass of vodka. Strain, mix with warm water and rinse. Do not swallow.
  17. Vodka can treat and cool burns. It is imperative to apply immediately to skin after a burning. If you do not hesitate, is possible to avoid the appearance of blisters.
  18. Vodka fights unpleasant odor of feet. The reason for odor: bacteria that live near the sweat glands. Morning and evening, wiping feet with vodka, you eliminate bacteria, and no one will “produce” an unpleasant odor.
  19. You go for a visit in the stunning new shoes. But you can barely sit at table: your charming shoes are rubbing strongly. Pour 50 ml. of vodka in each shoe, and after 10-15 minutes the pain subsides.

One quick anecdote relating to all this. The best job I ever had was the one I got right out of college when I was an analyst in a small think tank. My boss and I would go to Moscow, find old communists and army generals, and talk to them about how they planned to blow up the United States during the Cold War. This was in the early 1990s, before the dust from the Soviet collapse had settled, and most of these Russian guys were still dazed and reeling from the events of the preceding few years. Even though they lost the Cold War and their country was on the scrapheap of history, most of these grizzled veterans were extremely proud of what they had achieved. They were more than happy to talk to us, and there was no one around to stop them. My boss did most of the talking; I mostly just tagged along and took notes. But it was incredibly exciting.

On one of these trips, I had a very bad cold. We were sitting in the main Central Committee office building with a tremendous view of the Kremlin and talking with Vitaly Katayev, a rocket scientist who had been a major Communist Party industrialist responsible for the development of a number of strategic missile systems. He was telling us about the development of these systems, then stopped, looked at me with pity and said, “Young man, what you need is 100 grams. We have academicians who study vodka – really study it – and their work proves that it can cure many ailments, including the cold, by opening up cell membranes and improving ionic flow.” He weaved together the fingers of his hands, illustrating the flow of ions through the cell membranes. I took him up on this advice later. I think it helped a little.

There is a slightly chilling epilogue to this story. Katayev eventually ended up at the Hoover Institution, where he wrote about his career in the Soviet missile industry and where he deposited his papers. I wouldn’t be surprised if Peter Robinson knew him. On one of his trips home to Moscow in 2001, he supposedly fell down a flight of stairs in his apartment building and died. That’s the official story, anyway. I doubt that vodka is of much help where falling down a flight of stairs is concerned.

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  1. Jamal Rudert Inactive
    Jamal Rudert
    @JasonRudert

    I’ve used it to bring a clogged inkjet printer cartridge back to life.

    • #1
  2. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Recently (within the past year) I listened to the audio version of Mark Schrad’s book, Vodka Politics.

    On the audible/amazon web site I grumbled about the narrator’s mispronunciation of some basic words, and the author replied that it bothered him, too, when he first heard it, too, but that he gave the guy a pass because he had once played Chuck Norris, or some such thing.  I’m not sure what that had to do with anything, but maybe authors don’t have a lot of control over how their books get read aloud.

    Anyhow the book talks about the various anti-vodka campaigns over the years.  Most of these campaigns have been unsuccessful because the Russian government, Soviet or otherwise, needs the revenue that vodka brings in.  It’s a long-standing conflict of interest.  At the end it mentions Putin’s latest anti-vodka campaign, but then leaves us hanging because it wasn’t clear at the time of writing whether that one would follow the same path as all the others.  (I think I almost said a pun there.)  Anyhow, do you have recent information on how it’s going in Russia?

    • #2
  3. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Hilarious post. Your life sounds very interesting. Once in the 90s, I read of a computer program to translate foreign languages. They fed into it in English “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” and in Russian it came out, “The vodka is ready but the meat is bad.”

    • #3
  4. Hank Rhody Contributor
    Hank Rhody
    @HankRhody

    Oblomov: I doubt that vodka is of much help where falling down a flight of stairs is concerned.

    I imagine it helps immensely.

    • #4
  5. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Next thing you know you’ll be telling me Lenin is embalmed with the stuff. (Although I wouldn’t be surprised.)

    • #5
  6. Oblomov Member
    Oblomov
    @Oblomov

    Hank Rhody:

    Oblomov: I doubt that vodka is of much help where falling down a flight of stairs is concerned.

    I imagine it helps immensely.

    Not the kind of falling down stairs I’m talking about.

    • #6
  7. Oblomov Member
    Oblomov
    @Oblomov

    The Reticulator: At the end it mentions Putin’s latest anti-vodka campaign, but then leaves us hanging because it wasn’t clear at the time of writing whether that one would follow the same path as all the others.  (I think I almost said a pun there.)  Anyhow, do you have recent information on how it’s going in Russia?

    I don’t. I haven’t really kept up with it. Maybe it’s worth looking into for the next occasional vodka post.

    • #7
  8. Hank Rhody Contributor
    Hank Rhody
    @HankRhody

    RightAngles:Hilarious post. Your life sounds very interesting. Once in the 90s, I read of a computer program to translate foreign languages. They fed into it in English “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” and in Russian it came out, “The vodka is ready but the meat is bad.”

    In the program’s defense it’s producing a phrase that responds to a very common situation.

    • #8
  9. Oblomov Member
    Oblomov
    @Oblomov

    RightAngles: Once in the 90s, I read of a computer program to translate foreign languages. They fed into it in English “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” and in Russian it came out, “The vodka is ready but the meat is bad.”

    I heard that one from my dad in the 1970s. It’s nice to think it’s a real story, but probably not.

    • #9
  10. Oblomov Member
    Oblomov
    @Oblomov

    RightAngles: Once in the 90s, I read of a computer program to translate foreign languages. They fed into it in English “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” and in Russian it came out, “The vodka is ready but the meat is bad.”

    I have to say, Google Translate is not much better.

    • #10
  11. Oblomov Member
    Oblomov
    @Oblomov

    BTW, I propose that the next DC Meetup should be at The Russia House at Dupont Circle.

    • #11
  12. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Correction: It was not Lenin who was embalmed in vodka, it was Boris Yeltsin… And that was when he was President of Russia.

    • #12
  13. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    Oblomov, I am jealous.

    In college, I studied Russian History.  Did Pimsleur, but never made it too far with the language.  After college, I applied to 2 programs:  Law school, and the Russian and Eastern European Studies Ph.D program at University of Oregon.  I was accepted into both, and chose law school (this was the year that I got married) because I felt it held better job prospects.  I’m happy enough with my job, of course, though not with my student debt.  However, I sometimes wish I had chosen the other route…

    • #13
  14. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Oblomov: This is the second in an occasional series concerning the role of vodka in Russian life and culture. It is offered primarily for its practical value, and not in the spirit of building bridges of peace and understanding through positive dialogue between peoples, and so forth. In my experience, positive dialogue and greater understanding are likely to lead to more mutual scorn, contempt and low regard – not less.

    Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.

    – Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    • #14
  15. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    Also … I’ve had a horrible hard-water stain on my windshield that won’t go away no matter what I try (ammonia, lemon juice, literally scrubbing it with a cut lemon, etc…).  I am going to rub vodka on it next.

    • #15
  16. Hank Rhody Contributor
    Hank Rhody
    @HankRhody

    I’ve been told that Houdini never wanted to do escapes from beer kegs, because as long as he’s immersed he’s getting drunk from every pore in his body.

    What I’m saying is, rubbing vodka on your joints or pouring it into your shoes may actually reduce your perception of soreness.

    But it’s going to throw off your ratios.

    • #16
  17. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Oblomov:

    RightAngles: Once in the 90s, I read of a computer program to translate foreign languages. They fed into it in English “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” and in Russian it came out, “The vodka is ready but the meat is bad.”

    I heard that one from my dad in the 1970s. It’s nice to think it’s a real story, but probably not.

    Well I read about it in the 90s. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen in the 70s. I checked on Snopes just now, and they aren’t sure.

    • #17
  18. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    The idea of using it in a spray bottle has possibilities.

    • #18
  19. donald todd Inactive
    donald todd
    @donaldtodd

    Basil Fawlty:The idea of using it in a spray bottle has possibilities.

    I wonder what it does for roses or tulips?

    • #19
  20. katievs Inactive
    katievs
    @katievs

    We laugh. But this is the natural end of socialized medicine combined with socialized everything else.

    • #20
  21. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    From Gorky Park:

    “The investigator suspected that the poor dead bastards were just a vodka troika that had cheerily frozen to death.  Vodka was liquid taxation, and the price was always rising.  It was accepted that three was the lucky number on a bottle in terms of economic prudence and desired effect.  It was a perfect example of primitive communism.”

    • #21
  22. Penfold Member
    Penfold
    @Penfold

    The list was fun reading!  I imagined the voice of Boris Badenov while reading it.

    “Natasha darlink, now is time to keel moose and squirrel”

    • #22
  23. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    katievs:We laugh. But this is the natural end of socialized medicine combined with socialized everything else.

    We laugh because crying gets repetitive.

    • #23
  24. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    The use of Vodka to bring down a fever and to help an ear ache makes since. In the fever case the evaporation of the vodka causes cooling of the skin much like sweating. In the case of ear aches the evaporation wicks out water which is often the cause of an ear ache. In my family we use rubbing alcohol.Its cheaper and chances are someone has already drank the vodka.

    • #24
  25. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Oblomov: Does your kitchen have fruit gnats? Mix 30 ml of vodka, 3-4 drops of dish soap and 400 ml of water. Wipe this mixture around place where you find gnats and they will voluntarily leave your flat.

    This recipe was given to me by an old Italian craftsman — for use as a granite cleaner. (He recommended adding a drop or two of lavender oil or citrus oil to improve the scent.)

    My only problem is that I have to remember to put away my granite cleaner for Passover, because the vodka I keep around is made from wheat.

    • #25
  26. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Son of Spengler:My only problem is that I have to remember to put away my granite cleaner for Passover, because the vodka I keep around is made from wheat.

    Can you clean for Pesach with Vodka? It evaporates….

    • #26
  27. David Carroll Thatcher
    David Carroll
    @DavidCarroll

    Ryan M:Oblomov, I am jealous.

    In college, I studied Russian History. Did Pimsleur, but never made it too far with the language. After college, I applied to 2 programs: Law school, and the Russian and Eastern European Studies Ph.D program at University of Oregon. I was accepted into both, and chose law school (this was the year that I got married) because I felt it held better job prospects. I’m happy enough with my job, of course, though not with my student debt. However, I sometimes wish I had chosen the other route…

    You would still have the student debt, but I think worse prospects for paying it off.  Of course it would be easier to escape it by defecting….

    • #27
  28. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    iWe:

    Son of Spengler:My only problem is that I have to remember to put away my granite cleaner for Passover, because the vodka I keep around is made from wheat.

    Can you clean for Pesach with Vodka? It evaporates….

    I’m guessing you probably can, because any surfaces used with food will be kashered or covered anyway. Consult your LOR.

    • #28
  29. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Son of Spengler:

    iWe: Can you clean for Pesach with Vodka? It evaporates….

    I’m guessing you probably can, because any surfaces used with food will be kashered or covered anyway. Consult your LOR.

    Do Russian dogs eat vodka?

    • #29
  30. Bob L Member
    Bob L
    @

    All of the household uses seem reasonable if you don’t have a viable alternative.

    Personally, I don’t like the stuff.  I live by the Ron Swanson mantra:

    Clear alcohol is for rich women on diets.

    • #30
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