Apropos of nothing except the fact that I’m reading it, here’s a tale from the second volume of Lester Pearson’s memoirs.

In 1955, Pearson became the first Canadian foreign affairs minister to visit the Soviet Union and along for the trip was one of his diplomats, George Ignatieff (father of Michael). This anecdote is from the Canadian delegation’s dinner at Nikita Khrushchev’s holiday retreat.

Some time after 10pm Khrushchev suggested that we eat, and we followed him down the hall to a great dining room. He carefully pointed out to us three bathrooms off the dining room, the significance of which, at least in his mind, became apparent later during the ‘vodka’ part of the evening…

Khrushchev was intensely interested in Ignatieff, ‘the Count,’ as he kept calling him, in tones which were half way between insult and respect. Mrs Khrushchev, who sat next to him, was all respect. It soon became apparent that Khrushchev was determined, ably seconded by Bulganin, to put us all ‘under the table.’ He and Bulganin proposed toast after toast in ‘pepper vodka’ and they kept eagle eyes on us, especially on George and Ray Crepault (the ‘wily French boy,’ as they called him) to make sure that it was ‘bottoms up’ each time. Someone said we drank eighteen toasts, but I wouldn’t know. I do remember we even drank to the Canadian wheat surplus. ‘Drink up like a Russian,’ Khrushchev kept warning George…

If Khrushchev had had his way, we would have been there, in one way or another, all night, but Bulganin finally assisted us in breaking up the party. About 12:30 the four Canadians marched straightly, heads up, with fixed determination and without any assistance, to our car, after a very spirited leave taking. We left our two Russian hosts in worse condition than we were, and we felt that we had not done too badly, either socially or diplomatically.