The post many have been waiting for...
With Thanksgiving on Thursday, I thought it would be appropriate to give you a taste (!) of some of the foods I've been eating over the past two months.
Simply put, the food is delicious (cмачно)! I most definitely have lucked out being placed with a cook, but every Ukrainian woman (and some men) are excellent cooks, with sacred recipes of traditional dishes that have been handed down many generations. I have been eating well, and am really trying to live up all of the delicious meals, because in a few short weeks, I'll be doing it all on my own. But in preparation for those cold, lonely winter nights, I have been cooking a lot with Lecia and she's been kind enough to share some recipes. She even has a huge pile of food set aside for me in the cellar to take to site. I'm not sure how I will carry my luggage plus 3 sacks of potatoes, pumpkins, beats, jars of pickles, juice and Lord knows what else on a train. A discussion that will take place in a few weeks.
Breakfast usually includes what you had the night before for dinner, and then some. And you are expected to eat much more than you had for dinner as well. Breakfast has been one of the hot topics in Ukraine for Volunteers, mainly because we aren't used to eating SO MUCH FOOD first thing when we wake up. Piles and piles of food. Usually my clustermate Evan gets 3-6 fried eggs, 2 chicken legs, soup, 3 culets, an open-faced sandwich and mashed potatoes. He eats what he wants, but has had some really great conversations with his host Mom about it. Cross-cultural learning for both! I, however, have really lucked out and I am responsible for my own breakfasts because Lecia is usually leaves at 7, right as I am getting up. I have made french toast, eggs, meat, potatoes, borsch, but sometimes choose just to have a piece of fruit. A traditional American breakfast of cereal, yogurt and toast won't really fly here.
We usually do lunch at Language Lessons, and make rice with some meat and veggies, or have sausage, cheese, and veggie sandwiches. Our host families also give us food (a lot) so we share that.
Dinner is abundant, and I have yet to eat a meal with less than 6 different "dishes". There are always pickles on our table. Always. They are so good. Lecia told me she thought she was going to have way to many pickles this year, but then I came. (Shout of to Kirst, from whom I acquired a love for pickles). And always after dinner we have Tea or in Ukrainian "chai". That was the easiest word for me to remember at first, but it's loose leaf tea, not the kind with different spices and milk.
The meat is usually pork or chicken. I've had beef a few times, but we eat what we have, and we have pigs and chickens...go figure! Occasionally fish, but PC has nixed a hefty amount of fish consumption due to the pollution of the rivers. I really don't know what kind, but from what I've tried, it's very fishy, and always on the bone. And often time jumping out of the bowl, onto the floor the afternoon before they're cooked. Sometimes there is salo: raw (often salted) un-rendered pig fat lard. I stay away from salo. Far, far away. I had parts of animals I would never imagined eating, but when you ask "what's this" and someone responds with a word you don't understand, you don't ask questions, you eat it. And although the texture is often awkward, it is always good. (My parents are floored at this realization I am sure. This was the kid they wished I was when I was 10 eating dinner. Sorry about that.)
Potatoes: mashed, fried, boiled, (never baked), I have a potato with every meal. (Shout out to Robbie and Charlie who often eat a potato with dinner!) I think it's because Lecia grows a ton of them out back, but it also could be that they are delicious. Probably both. Kasha, which is buckwheat cereal I think. It often substitutes the rice or pasta dish we usually have. (Rice and pasta rarely have sauce, usually butter). We have holubtsi often as well: cabbage leaves (sour) rolled with meat and rice filling.
My two favorite dishes:
борщ (Borsch/Borscht), a Ukrainian staple. A beat based soup with potatoes, carrots, onions, one of Lecia's canned bean concoctions, and pork. Served hot, with a dalloup of sour cream. It became an instant favorite, so she usually makes a big pot on Friday, and we eat it throughout the weekend.
вареники -(Varenyky), small pastries filled with potatoes, fried onions, meat, sometimes liver, cabbage, sometimes cherries. A Ukrainian take on the Argentinian empanada, except varenyky are boiled, not baked. They are my favorite thing Lecia has made, but they are so time consuming, we have only had them twice. I pray on a daily basis I will walk home to see varenyky being rolled on the table. But, if I ate them everyday I would be really fat. Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.
I love to talk about food, probably more than you want to read about, so please e-mail me if you have any burning (!) questions. I have really enjoyed the e-mails of well wishes and love, so thank you so much for thinking of me. Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. May it be a time to reflect on the abundance and blessings you have in your life.