12 February 2011

Ukrainian Food

Merlin: Ukrainian food is heavy and interesting - it's fun to see the Russian and Romanian influences mix together here in the mountains. This is "banosh," which is a corn porridge similar to grits or watery polenta, made with a sour-cream based liquid. Sprinkled on top is the Hutsul cheese, "brynza." It's made from sheep's milk, is something like feta, and crumbles easily into gritty clumps.
Rebecca: Salads have not necessarily been any greener here than in the last few countries, but at least they've consisted of vegetables. We memorized the words for 'cabbage' and 'mayonnaise' early on and made a habit of ordering any salad with a description that included the first term and not the second.
Merlin: There is a surprising dearth of greenery here, which I can only partly attribute to the season. Almost all vegetables that have survived into February have been pickled, canned or are cabbage.
Rebecca: Some of the most impressive supermarket bread aisles and market stands have been in Ukraine. The variety seems never-ending. There's so much available bread, in fact, that we could not find a single box of crackers between Lviv and Kamyanets-Podilsky.
Merlin: The interesting thing about bread in Ukraine is that it's not all rye. In fact, while we still eat some brown bread, the majority of baked goods are made with white flour and have a lighter consistency than they did in more northern countries. It made us realize that we're getting into the south.
Merlin: Dried fish, hung outside at a market. They eat a good deal of river and lake fish, here, and we've seen a lot of ice fisherman.
Rebecca: As we sat eating a light lunch of soup and salad, a cook in hospital scrubs came in and began to grill three or four carp right in the little fireplace we'd been warming ourselves next to. I've had about seven or eight whole grilled trouts during my time in this country, but I can always have more. So, we returned for dinner just tonight, but my limited communication skills brought me a broiled salmon steak. Not necessarily a food-ordering error I'm going to complain about.
Merlin: These are "varenyky," which are the Ukrainian iteration of the ubiquitous, Slavic "pelmini." Essentially, dumplings. They have been on all the menus, but seem to be rarely available. I have to say, I wasn't excited about trying them, but I felt that I had to.
Rebecca: Merlin was kind enough to order the meatless variety, filled with tomatoey cabbage that reminded me of the outside of my mom's stuffed cabbage.

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