Lea has repeatedly harassed Erik about studying an area of the world that lacks truly exotic cuisine (Malaysia, Thailand, and Italy have elections, do they not?). While Ukraine's food is not exotic, we have come to enjoy some local specialties (in no particular order):
1. Korona Intenza Extra Dark Chocolate with Orange Peel (Lea only). Lea claims that this stuff is awesome, despite Erik's protests. It is made by Kraft, so why can't it be found in the US?
2. Beer. L'viv is known for beer. Not only is the beer good, it is cheap. It is so cheap that people are out on the street chugging down Ukrainian 40s as early as 9:00 a.m. L'viv Premium and Chernihiv White are among our favorites.
3. Bread. Our love of local bread is as much about the price as about the quality. Carter likes the "lavash," which is akin to a Central Asian flatbread (lipeshka - like pizza dough and baked in a tandoor oven) rather than familiar lavash. He also likes what we have dubbed "sweet bread" which is a small braided bread similar to challah. A quirk in buying bread is that customers can buy partial loaves. One day, splurging on a large 80-cent loaf, we were asked if we were sure that we wanted to buy the whole thing. Part of our adjustment to life back in the US will be the $3.00 bread!
4. Ham. When buying meat in the open air, with passers-by taking samples, and refrigeration nowhere to be found, smoked meat is safer than fresh. We have seen some sights that would make FDA inspectors shudder: raw, warm chicken visited by many flies, whole rabbits displayed with fur on one foot, butchers carving up carcasses with cigarettes dangling from their lips. Consequently, a large amount of ham has been consumed in the Herron household. Much of this has been bought from the woman we have dubbed "the ham lady." She is not far from the "bread lady," from whom most of our bread is bought, and the "cheese lady" who provides for most of our dairy needs.
5. Cheese. Cheese seems to be labeled by countries rather than by style or content. All of it is made in Ukraine, and we have no idea if the country labels have anything to do with cheese from those parts of the world. Estonian is by far our favorite, but close behind is Irish, which has something green in it, possibly dried parsley. Another kind we like, not named after a country, is marbled. Akin to a colby jack, the cheese is orange and white specked, and it satisfies Carter's desire for orange cheese. At home, he is a huge fan of extra sharp cheddar.
6. Kishmish Grapes. Long gone since winter is approaching, these tiny, light green, sweet grapes have a strong but thin skin that pops when you bite into them. According to several sources, they are the same as Thompson seedless grapes. But, they don't remind us of grapes in the US.
7. Syrniki Cheese. Ukrainians use farmer's cheese, similar to a dry cottage cheese, to make pancakes called syrniki. Erik has made these a few times on our trip. In the US, we have only found this cheese in Cleveland's fabulous West Side Market. Paired with the Siberian berry brusnika, they are a wonderful breakfast treat.
While we have enjoyed the food on our journey, we are craving some spicy Mexican food. Brian Silver's son Nate's blog on the subject has made us drool with envy at those in Chicago. One of our first restaurant stops in Lawrence will be either El Mezcal or Tortas Jalisco... or both. Even a jar of salsa and some corn chips sounds good right now!