At some point, I will have to write some in depth posts about my study in Russia, my amazing family, my life-altering experiences, etc.
This is not that post (but one may be forthcoming).
On msn I saw an article about a foreign exchange student that was starved with the caption "Would you send your kids abroad"?
Well, I don't know about what happened there.
I do know, with my host family and our group of American college students - most everyone GAINED fifteen pounds. Not only is Russian food wonderful - it's also full of fat. Most everything is cooked in butter or "macla" - oil. They have this wonderful sour cream "smetana" - that is so different from typical bland American sour cream. They must put some sort of lard in it or something - it just tastes more rich.
To describe a dish I remember - perogis (potato dumplings, like ravoli) served with grilled onions (grilled in butter) - with smetana on the side.
Because of the generous living allowance given to the families, typically meat was on the menu. Each night. Woe to any vegetarians who want to try and stick it out for four months. There were options - but most of the food there is heavily meat based.
The family was only on the hook for two meals (breakfast and dinner) but most of the conservative matriarchs in the families didn't trust any food made outside the home. This translated, for one of my friends into being sent to school "the university" with "buterboards" (sandwiches) - salami and cheese.
These same conservative matriarchs were incredibly concerned that we ate enough, that when we returned to the States, that our families would know that we had been well fed. I believe it's a cultural thing. It just makes me laugh - we were all very fortunate that our host families took the "host" and "family" labels very seriously.