William Walker, a junior political science major and Kathryn Samuelson, a former professor at Ball State who used to teach Russian, attend the Russian dinner on Jan. 20 at Vera Mae’s Bistro. Kent Shuff, one of the owners, decided to have this dinner on inauguration day after hearing about the ties between Russia and President Donald Trump. Patrick Calvert // DN
Local business hosts Russian dinner on Inauguration Day
Russia’s presence was felt in Muncie on Inauguration Day, and luckily it wasn’t in the form of a shirtless Vladimir Putin on horseback.
Vera Mae’s Bistro, a restaurant located in downtown Muncie, hosted a Russian-themed dinner that featured smoked salmon, borscht, beef stroganoff, bird’s milk cake and a selection of cocktails.
Kent Shuff, one of the owners of the restaurant and a Ball State alum, chose to have a Russian-themed dinner after hearing about ties between Russia and President Donald Trump.
“We definitely went out on a limb in [having a Russian dinner and we were] fully expecting a little bit of backlash, which we have received,” Shuff said.
Shuff has received a couple calls from people who were unhappy about the dinner.
“One was a gentleman criticizing us for basically telling him how he should vote, to which we explained, ‘I’m sorry, we are just doing an evening of Russian cuisine, we are not making anyone vote for anyone,'” he said.
In the past, the bistro has had international nights where the restaurant serves food from all over the world. Some of these include French, Italian and Chinese food. Shuff also said that the majority of people have taken the Russian theme in a lighthearted way.
“Our personal affiliation is certainly left of center. Now, that does not mean that we certainly don’t support people on the right as well,” Shuff said. “Never in my life have I ever voted a straight ticket.”
Kathryn Samuelson, a former professor at Ball State who used to teach Russian, attended the event in a traditional Russian dress.
“For some reason I have always loved Russia and things Russian, and to see this happening in Muncie, I wanted to support it and enjoy Russian food," she said.
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Samuelson has visited Russia several times in her life and shared what she believes is some common ground between the American and the Russian people.
"They want the same things we want," she said. "They want a house, they want a safe life, they want health care, and above us both there are these fights going on and we would rather just live in peace and harmony."
She described Putin as “extremely intelligent” and “extremely dangerous” due to his time in the KGB, which was a state security entity for the Soviet Union before being dissolved in 1991.
She is worried about the associations between Trump and Putin and believes the president doesn’t know what he is getting into.
“He is like a sheep being led to the slaughter, and the slaughter being Vladimir Putin, who is much smarter and has a KGB background," Samuelson said.
Alba Rosenman, a Muncie resident who has Russian ancestry, enjoyed the satire behind the theme of the dinner.
“I thought it was very humorous that they decided to do this," she said.
Growing up Rosenman ate Russian food frequently and said she had a good time comparing the bistro’s food with the tastes from her childhood.
She is personally not happy with the election, and said, “I would rather not have [Trump] as president.”
Rosenman described Trump as insane, narcissistic and childlike. She is fearful of “the whole nuclear thing” and is worried the LGBT community, people of color and prisoners will be treated unjustly.
“I don’t know what to do," she said. "I don’t know how to wake up in the morning."
Jonathan Becker, a theatre professor at Ball Sate, felt like the dinner provided a joyful atmosphere for those who were struggling about what to expect in the future.
“As a gay man, I’m certainly and incredibly concerned with the supermajority of a Republican president and congress because I don’t belong in their world," he said.
Becker described himself as someone who values kindness, inclusion and tolerance, and he doesn’t believe the Trump administration has the same values.
“I might be wrong, but on the surface I don’t see it," he said.