After reading some posts by our friend Anya Knotts (the first of these posts is dated October 19th, 2007) about what they don't have in Ukraine as she spends an extended stay in California, I thought it was time to post about some of the things we see here in Ukraine, but not in America (or at least California). I realize that there might be some things in Ukraine that they do have in the United States that I've just overlooked, but for the most part I'll try to point out the usual stuff.
#1 would have to be the outdoor market, called a rynok (ринок) or bazar (базар).
Yes, they have "farmers' markets" in the U.S., but the bazar is everyday, all day. You can pretty much find everything you need there without going to a regular store. It just takes a little longer as you have to shop around for each item. It's usually cheaper to shop this way and the quality of the home grown produce is usually very good. During winter most of the produce is imported or has been canned in jars during the summer. The meats, dairy, and honey are sold in the indoor part to protect them from the heat of the summer. I don't think the meat vendors would pass any safe handling requirements in the U.S., but hey, at least you can tell it's fresh.
#2 is salo (сало), raw pork fat.
Salo is salted and sometimes even smoked, but the most common way to eat it is to eat a cold raw slice with a piece of garlic. Most vendors will slice off a sliver of their salo for you to sample before buying it. A chunk of salo thrown into a frying pan works good for frying eggs. If you fry up several pieces until they are crispy, it tastes just like the fried pork rinds you can buy in places like Louisiana, called cracklin.
#3 is kvas (квас), a refreshing summer time drink.
Kvas is made from black bread and has a unique taste. During the summer they sell it from wheeled yellow carts scattered around the city. People either love it or hate it. The boys and I love it, but Edna says she'd sooner drink pond water. On really hot days I'd carry jugs to get filled with kvas so we could enjoy it at home. I have some recipes to make it at home, but it just seems to taste better out of the little yellow tanks.
#4 is live fish (Жива Риба).
Why buy fish that are already dead when you can insure freshness by killing them yourself in the comfort of your own home. You can find tanks of live fish scattered around the city with people eagerly lining up to buy them. Coming from a city in California near the ocean, we aren't too fond of fish from rivers and ponds. I never cared for catfish in Arkansas or Louisiana either. I guess it depends on where you grow up, because Edna's mom, who grew up in Croatia, loves this type of fish. Sorry, Mom, but if you ever come to visit, we're having chicken (and no you can't buy any fish and eat the eyeballs either).
#5 unattended babies.
The strollers are pretty heavy duty as you can see from the photo. Unlike the U.S., most people don't have a car so if you have a baby you need something that resembles a light all-terrain vehicle to navigate through snow, mud, and broken sidewalks. Most businesses and public stairs have little metal tracks that line up with stroller wheels as well as hand carts, but sadly, I've never once seen a wheelchair ramp.
Hopefully this gives all of you living in the United States a glimpse of what life is like here for us. I wouldn't say Ukraine is better or worse than the U.S., just different and it's our home. I'll try and post more of these as I get time.