Tales of a Recovering Vegetarian
Before coming to Ukraine I had been vegetarian for five years and anyone who has lived with me can also attest to occasional forays into veganism. I had decided long before coming to Ukraine that I would break my vegetarianism when I moved here. Once my departure was official, I started reintroducing meat into my diet. My roommates from this time can tell you that me trying to learn how to cook meat was usually the entertainment of the night.
I personally decided to start eating meat again for one main reason: I didn’t want to be seen as rude or difficult. If you are planning on moving to Ukraine and are vegetarian I would highly recommend considering your options. If you are planing on just visiting Ukraine and maintaining your vegetarianism here are some tips:
- Study your food words in Ukrainian and Russian
- Your soup will be meat-broth based, except this and move on.
- The breakfast of champions is a Snickers and bag of chips
- Your options in winter are going to be fewer then your options in summer
- Expect meat to pop up in places you wouldn’t think it would be
- ?????? (potato pancakes) is usually a safe bet.
For my carnivores I have advice for you too. My top three favorite foods that include meat in Ukraine:
- ????? (borscht) – If Ukraine had a national food it would be borscht. If you visit Ukraine and don’t have borscht at least once I would have to say you didn’t really experience Ukraine. Every restaurant, even the Italian ones, have borscht on the menu. Excellent with a side of ???????? (papmpushkas), fluffy garlic rolls.
- ??????? (holypsi) – Cabbage rolls stuffed with rice, onion, and ground-up meat simmered in a pot of tomato broth. These are the first Ukrainian food that I will make for my friends and family back in the states.
- ??????? (shashleek) – The Ukrainian version of barbeque. Juicy chunks of pork slow cooked over charcoal. A dish that defiantly calls for a cold beer or a few shots of vodka.
Being a vegetarian in Ukraine is not impossible. I know many Americans who live here and have maintained a vegetarian diet. I also know a small handful of Ukrainians who are vegetarian. I remember one conversation with a Ukrainian where she told me she is the only vegetarian in her family and is viewed as an anomaly. The way I see it is this: there is a Ukrainian word for vegetarian so people here are aware of the concept but will still give you a hard time when you tell your food preference. You should see the looks I get when I explain veganism.
Julia Grebenstein is a Peace Corps Youth Development Volunteer working in Central Ukraine. To read more about her experiences in Ukraine, follow her blog at http://jgrebenstein.wordpress.com/.