Wednesday, August 22, 2012

OFFICIAL WIFE: Matushka, Deconstructed

First off, I've not seen, nor heard, nor smelled (name that movie!) a matushka in years. Second of all, I'm an English major. Third, I've just read this entire blog. (It wouldn't be fair not to mention this blog.) Finally, PK-- guilty as charged.

What is this matushka? Let's first investigate some of the sassy responses:
  • Those nesting Russian dolls? Phonetically close.
  • A Russian grandma? No, and we have it from our grandma that this is a derogatory term, loosely equated to "hag." And she's actually been to Russia even lived in Russia; don't you wish your grandma could say that??? She's just one awesome lady, but I thought I'd throw that out there. Baba does sound like it'd be easy for a baby to say... ... ...? [Alex's edit: Babushka is the full word. I knew that.]
  • My tush... something. Ok, that kinda fell flat.
First of all, if you're more of a reader and less of a talker and say it kinda like the nesting Russian dolls, you'd say it muhTOOSHka, and everyone in the room will look at you. It will be totally awkward. AWKward. So say it MAHtooshka. AWKward. MAHtooshka.

What is this matushka word?

In Baptist people's terms, it's the preacher's wife.

--and now we get to talk about how wonderful this is and how much we love language!

The Russian is Матушка, and I'm told it means 'little mother'. Although, I appreciate that we actually recognize the wife as a counterpart of her husband (Oh, we can't spoil it, yet.) why do we have to rely on the Russian transliteration? Why not, "Little Mother" Jenkins?--but that may be my latent lingophobia.... or any number of things. I'll only say we don't call her husband papa but rather priest or father.

Because this lady has her own title, her own position, we recognize that she actually has a job to do! Oh, ladies, how low have we gone that I'm excited about a woman having her own word? She has a title! --with MULTIPLE syllables! This says she actually does something. Her life--and let's not dismiss, her appearance-- is under more scrutiny than the other women. Right or wrong or just tiring and inconvenient more is expected-- be it more food at a potluck or more frequent attendance at church. This happens to wives of people in leadership positions (e.g. the First Lady) whether they want it or no, but not everyone gets a word.

Oh, to have a name. A title. ^_^ You can see that, right? My name in lights! AND CAPS

My mother was a mere accessory to my father, the Baptist preacher. There came a time when she'd had it with the expectation that the preacher's family would always bring three times the food to a potluck as anyone else. I believe the eureka moment for her was when she said, "If you eat food, you should bring food." Over the next two years, I made about six thousand (five dozen at a time) chocolate chip cookies. Hey, I had a title (PK). I had a job: Make cookies until people didn't want the preacher's family to bring ANYTHING! --and I was a cute little girl. What monster would say something to me???

Now we get to the thing you know. Yes, you know something. Go on! Get up and shake ya booty! *does happy dance* YAY! We know something!

If you elevate the priest to father, you must elevate the priest's wife to mother, because they are one. This is the thing you know. Now, go out into the world and apply it to all the people! WAIT! First, a lesson in etiquette.

Okay, now how to use these vocabulary words. If you are introducing the couple, say, "This is Priest Bob Jenkins and Matushka Amy," and of course reciprocate with the other parties. You might add what church they're associated with and, if you're in a different town, the town, too. If only the wife is there, you'd say, "Matushka Amy Jenkins." If you're speaking with them, you'd say, "Priest Bob, I have a sandwich for you," or "Matushka, I have a sandwich for you," (Matushka Amy if you're at a matushka convention which are quite impromptu) or "Father, I have a sandwich for you," or "I have a sandwich for you." Or, my personal favorite, just hold up a sandwich and look inquiring. Talking is overrated. Talk less. Life is simpler that way. The only requirement is that you actually have said sandwich, and you're willing to part with it. --and some awareness of the calendar is appreciated. If you offer something that can't be eaten for religious reasons, it's about two steps down from offering someone whose lactose intolerant something with milk, and one step down from a vegan finding out that you used chicken bouillon in something you cooked for them. Acceptable, but a faux pas, nonetheless, for those trusted to be in the know. If you're not expected to be in the know, you get brownie points. The Joy of Cooking, which is an excellent middle-of-the-road guideline on these things, reads:
"Unless you know your guests' food preferences well, avoid daunting animal parts or overly spicy foods; inquire discreetly about food allergies or vegetarian tendencies if you think that's appropriate." (11, under the heading "About the Menu")


A Girl Who Grew up as a PK, A Woman who Married into the O's

Rombauer, Irma S., Rombauer Becker, Marian, Becker, Ethan. "Entertaining." Joy of Cooking. New York: Scribner, 1997. Cookbook.

PS: Everything this lady said, and I'd go ten miles further on the green hair. Let's have a MAHtushka (Remember, AWKward?) with green hair. I had black toe nails for probably a decade and (when I felt I could get away with it) black nails to detract from the stereotype that the color of your nail polish reflects the quality of your person. My motivation was my family's negative reaction to a cousin. I had a better track record than her, but it had nothing to do with nail polish. I liked her. She was kind to me. I was even less eloquent as an eleven year old, but my dad stopped worrying after only two or three conversations. Who knows if he understood then, but I think it chipped away at his stereotyping a bit.


  1. In regards to my assertion that wives of leaders have a job, I am assuming that the wife was consulted on the move to leadership. My intention is far from making anyone feel like they should bring three times the amount of food to potlucks as other women.

  2. The cookie recipe (which I doubled): 1.5 sticks butter, softened + 3/4c brown sugar + 3/4c granulated sugar= mix
    Add in 1 egg, 1t vanilla, 1.5t baking powder, 1/2t salt=mix (The salt is very important. Add more salt as years pass.)
    Gradually stir in 5c flour. My mother told me only to use the mixer for the first bit, then stir by hand. Stir in a bag of chocolate chips, also by hand. Roll into lil' balls and place on ?greased=Tina ungreased=Mom? cookie sheet and bake EXACTLY 8min @ 350F in my mom's gas oven. Cool adequately before moving. Set timers. Watch cartoons. Make lots of dirty dishes and put the air bake cookie pans in the dishwasher. (Oh, the air bake cookie pan wars!) While you're at it, soak all the black iron skillets, why don'tcha?

    The original recipe called for some peanut butter and came on the back of a plastic yellow Toll House chocolate chips bag. Mom probably still has it. Somewhere along the way, the peanut butter was omitted. Enjoy!