In Soviet Ukraine, Lunch Eats You

I’m working on a guest post on Ukrainian food for my pal A Food Bitch‘s delightful foodie blog… so I’m ramping up to it by posting about a typical soviet meal here first. 🙂  Hoping to eat out somewhere fan-cay tonight as well… stay posted.

Today I had what Oleg described as a typical soviet meal. It was just a block away from Alex’s office, in a government building. Apparently they serve lunch there for anyone who wants to come in and pay, but since they are primarily there to serve the government workers in the building, it’s not operated for profit, and thus is very cheap (less than $4 for tea, soup, salad, bread, and a meat dish). Oleg said it was a quick way to have lunch, and he wasn’t kidding–we walked in, ordered, and as soon as we sat down the soup was brought to the table.

The cabbage soup wasn’t fancy, but it was filling, and I love cabbage in pretty much any form. There was a little sour cream and dill in the middle of the soup.  The salo (salt-cured fatback or lard) was spreadable–at the hotel it’s usually served in slices like fatty bacon, but this was more like butter. It was very garlicy, and I liked it spread on the bread.

The mashed potatoes were pretty similar to what you’d find in the states. I thought the meat was chicken at first, but it was actually ground beef in a bready pocket. It was a bit bland (typical of soviet fare), but the salad compensated for that with its tartness–it consisted of cabbage, carrot, onion, pickle, and a few things I wasn’t entirely sure about (were those really tiny cubes of jellied cranberry? it was probably beets, just sweet ones). We finished with a cup of tea each–plenty of sugar cubes on the side.

We were talking throughout the meal and still walked there, ate, and walked back in less than thirty minutes–Oleg said he often does the same in twenty minutes. Pretty filling, efficient, and cheap at less than $4 USD!

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