Family dinner in Ukraine.
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Things I Ate in Ukraine

One of the things I’m most proud of in my culture is the sharing of food. My mom instilled in me the love of cooking and eating and not being afraid to try new flavors. Robert likes to tell the story of the first time he came to my parents’ house for dinner and my mom continued to fill his plate with food every time it was empty. Food is how we show love.

One of the central activities of my visit in Kiev was shopping for, cooking and eating meals as a family. The kitchen in my aunt’s house was the central area where everybody stayed up late talking and joking and of course, gathered for meals, snacks, drinks and nibbles.

My first night, and almost every night following, we had cake. The Roshen brand of cakes in Kiev are so good. My mom bought one once in the states, which was imported from Ukraine, and it just wasn’t the same.

Left to right: “Smetanyk,” a sour cream cake, and “Kyivsky” cake named after the city of Kiev/Kyiv. This cake has two light layers of meringue with hazelnut, chocolate glaze, and a buttercream icing. Easily my favorite cake.

Left to right: “Smetanyk,” a sour cream cake, and “Kyivsky” cake named after the city of Kiev/Kyiv. This cake has two light layers of meringue with hazelnut, chocolate glaze, and a buttercream icing. Easily my favorite cake.

The next day, we went to a membership bulk store called Metro. My mom and I wanted to buy everything! The aisles of tea, chocolate, bread and cookies were amazing!


Obolon brand of beer. I liked the label of the traditional red embroidery. We chose a few beers to try. Slavic beers tend to be high alcohol and very low in price (50 cents).

Obolon brand of beer. I liked the label of the traditional red embroidery. We chose a few beers to try. Slavic beers tend to be high alcohol and very low in price (50 cents).


Bottles of kefir, a fermented milk drink. It has become popular in the states, but again, does not taste as good in the states as it does in Ukraine.

Bottles of kefir, a fermented milk drink. It has become popular in the states, but again, does not taste as good in the states as it does in Ukraine.


Very happy to sample different types of black and rye bread, with and without caraway seeds.

Very happy to sample different types of black and rye bread, with and without caraway seeds.

When we came home, my aunt started preparing the dough to make vareniki, also called pierogis. These are filled dumplings of Eastern European descent. My mom usually made them with mashed potatoes inside. My aunt prepared them with sour cherries. I think I ate a dozen, or at least I wanted to!

Cherry vareniki with a little bit of honey.

Cherry vareniki with a little bit of honey.

The next day, we went to a Roshen factory store. Roshen is a confectioner that is owned by the current president of Ukraine; how interesting is that? It was also previously called the Karl Marx Kiev Confectionery Factory. At any rate, it was like we were all Charlie visiting the Chocolate Factory.

The refrigerated cakes section. The boxes are so pretty. It was tempting to want to try them all.

The refrigerated cakes section. The boxes are so pretty. It was tempting to want to try them all.


My cousins and I next to the cakes and eclairs. Yum.

My cousins and I next to the cakes and eclairs. Yum.


Pink zefir in bulk at Roshen. Zefir is sort of like a marshmallow, but better. It’s made by whipping together fruit puree, egg whites and sugar.

Pink zefir in bulk at Roshen. Zefir is sort of like a marshmallow, but better. It’s made by whipping together fruit puree, egg whites and sugar.


Robert loves orange jelly slices so I made sure he got a bag of these.

Robert loves orange jelly slices so I made sure he got a bag of these.


“Cherry Queen” cake from the Roshen store. It was sort of like a Black Forest cake.

“Cherry Queen” cake from the Roshen store. It was sort of like a Black Forest cake.

For breakfast, my aunt made pancakes called oladi. They are made with kefir in the batter and they get really puffy and doughy as they cook. We usually top them with sour cream and sugar.

Oladi pancakes browning in the pan; my aunt is not afraid of oil!

Oladi pancakes browning in the pan; my aunt is not afraid of oil!

For dinner, my cousin went down in the cellar to take out a jar of tomato juice and pickles. My aunt and uncle have a farm where they grow a lot of produce and can it for the winter months. We had a simple dinner of potatoes, pickles and bread.

Herbed potatoes with pumpernickel bread and homemade pickles. The small jar has “adjika,” which is a spicy sauce.

Herbed potatoes with pumpernickel bread and homemade pickles. The small jar has “adjika,” which is a spicy sauce.

The following day, we made the hour-long bus ride to the country where my aunt and uncle have a house. It is next door to the house where I grew up. My uncle was there keeping an eye on the property and he met us. Although it had decided to snow lightly, my uncle wanted to have an outdoor barbecue. The small village was so quiet and peaceful, especially with the fragrant smoke of the outdoor fire and light dusting of snow. And the air was so crisp and clean.

My uncle grilling some pork skewers.

My uncle grilling some pork skewers.


Proudly displaying the finished skewers.

Proudly displaying the finished skewers.


The finished dinner. My aunt fed us so well. I think this picture exemplifies a simple, country feast.

The finished dinner. My aunt fed us so well. I think this picture exemplifies a simple, country feast.


This was one of my favorite things I ate: home-canned tomato juice, black bread and a sprinkle of seasoning salt in unrefined sunflower oil. The oil was so thick and had a flavor of its own. Ukraine is one of the world’s largest sunflower oil producers.

This was one of my favorite things I ate: home-canned tomato juice, black bread and a sprinkle of seasoning salt in unrefined sunflower oil. The oil was so thick and had a flavor of its own. Ukraine is one of the world’s largest sunflower oil producers.

Dinner the next night consisted of borscht, the famous Eastern European soup made with beets and cabbage. In addition to the soup, we had vodka, black bread, roe and “salo” pork fat.

Sour cream for the borscht soup, salted fish, vodka, bread, “salo” pork fat, and roe.

Sour cream for the borscht soup, salted fish, vodka, bread, “salo” pork fat, and roe.


Red beet borscht soup with an eggplant dip and a layered crepe dish.

Red beet borscht soup with an eggplant dip and a layered crepe dish.

One of my cousins wakes up so early for work—like 4 a.m.—and returns home around 10 a.m. On her way home, she would pick up some cookies or pastries for us to try. My mom and I had been requesting these walnut shaped cookies called “oreshki.” The next day, she brought these rolled waffle straws and various pastries.

Oreshki cookies filled with boiled sweetened condensed milk (dulce de leche).

Oreshki cookies filled with boiled sweetened condensed milk (dulce de leche).


Rolled wafers with caramel and cream, coffee cakes, poppy seed rolls and cheese muffins.

Rolled wafers with caramel and cream, coffee cakes, poppy seed rolls and cheese muffins.

Our last meal, we (by “we” I mean my aunt; she didn’t let my mom or I help the entire time) made a giant salad and fried potato pancakes called “deruny.” They were so good. When I try to make the oladi or deruny pancakes at home, they never come out very good. I think it’s because I’m scared to use too much oil.

A giant SPACEBA (thank you) to my aunt, uncle and cousins for all the cooking, shopping, chopping and preparing they did during our visit.

Salad and potato pancakes topped with sour cream, of course!

Salad and potato pancakes topped with sour cream, of course!

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