What to look for when visiting far-away cities and countries? Just like everyone else, I like to see beautiful buildings, famous museums, towers, bridges and other landmarks. However, in order to learn about the real life, I visit a local food market. This is the place where the “natives” go to feed themselves and I can discover so much more about their lives, than by visiting an opera house or a Presidential Palace.
When in Ukraine, one absolutely must see and taste the Ukrainian food and drink. While it is not the most delicate and famous cuisine in the world, the Ukrainian food is delicious, nourishing and satisfying. Disclaimer – I’m trying to be 100% objective here, despite the fact that I was born in the country!
There are three main forms of food shopping in today’s Ukraine. You can buy food at: a) huge modern stores, which often belong to the major international supermarket chains; b) the Soviet-style small neighborhood stores, where you must talk to a store clerk to request the desired item; c) very colorful farmers’ markets, where the foodstuff is almost always home-made, fresh, tasty, inexpensive, and, perhaps, even organic. In addition to the well established stationary farmers markets, it is common now to see some streets being taken over by farmers during the weekends, which is very similar to what’s happening all over the States.
During this particular visit (February 2017), I’ve been spending lots of time in supermarkets and farmers’ markets. Here is a brief photo report from a NOVUS supermarket, which is located within a walking distance from my apartment in Kiev.
At a first glance this particular supermarket is not much different from the similar American and European stores. It may be a bit larger than its US counterparts, but what really places it apart is the huge and diverse selection of dairy, sausages, and liquor.
I clearly prefer the Ukrainian vodka (horilka) to any other vodka. It is smooth, clean and does not create too many ill effects on the “morning after” – if applied in moderation, of course. A shot or two of cold horilka, followed by munching on a homemade pickle or sauerkraut, is the favorite method of consumption. On the second thought, let’s have another shot… Oh yeah! A word about the prices – the photo above shows a “top shelf” brand, which sells for $4 per 500 ml bottle or $7 for 1 liter. Astounding!
What can I say – a picture is worth a thousand words. Ukrainians, as well as most Eastern Europeans, excel in turning a pig into a thousand bits of tasty smoked and cured heaven. It will be impossible to describe the variety of sausages, hams and other products available in every Ukrainian store. Suffice to say that I’m still working through the menu, one sausage at a time.
This is where the ancient Viking influence meets the modern Ukrainian life – the Slavs absolutely love salted dried fish. I realize that it may not sound palatable to a Western ear, but take my word for it – hardly anything can be better than taking-in a steam bath (banya), followed by some dried fish and cold beer. Maybe a shot or two of horilka on top…
Got to have some freshly baked bread with your fish and sausages! The price is $0.33 per baguette.
It is time for desert and the selection is very impressive as well.
Na Zdorovye (ToYour Health) and Keep on Traveling!