Cooking in Kiev, Part 2:
We were fortunate to have someone who left the school this summer leave us a lot of household items, so we didn’t have to buy much. However, our kitchen is microscopic compared to what I’m used to.
Our stove is a gas stove that must be lit with a match. I’ve lit more matches in the past 4 weeks than I do in a typical year. I haven’t singed my skin yet, but I’ve come close. The oven dial has no temperature markings, so it’s all guesswork until I find and buy an oven thermometer. Even then, I’m guessing I’ll have to tape a metric conversion chart to something nearby so the temperature will mean something to me.
Our oven is about the size of an “Easy Bake Oven”. I’m hoping someone invites us over for Thanksgiving because there’s no way I can make a turkey in it! The first time I put our cookie sheet in the oven, I discovered that it’s too big and you can’t quite close the door. I made a pizza on the bottom of a cake pan last week because it fit, unlike the cookie sheet.
The successes: the apple crisp I made turned out better than it ever has at home. I just have to be sure to ration the 6 pounds of brown sugar that I brought with me. The homemade pizza (see above) turned out great too (just don’t buy a frozen pizza here…yuck…we won’t do that again). We used some sort of frozen dough that makes a flaky croissant like thing for Stromboli and it was excellent. My first ever peach pie? Made in a casserole ‘cause I don’t have a pie pan, but it turned out great too, I just wouldn’t use as much sugar next time.
The failures: Muffins…they burned on the bottom and wouldn’t come out of the cups and the blueberries they have here are sour. Pancakes…we need an electric griddle. Making them in a small, warped frying pan and trying to regulate the gas burner so they turn out just right has proven to be a challenge.
School lunch: we have an amazing lady named Zoya who cooks homemade Ukranian food four times a week. We had hot lunch two of the days last week and it was amazing. The “meatball, rice, sauce and salad” that we had one day was seriously the yummiest thing Bill or I have ever eaten. The kids even loved it!
The water: undrinkable. We’ve had a water cooler so far with water from a company. We brought a distiller with us, but left the cord in Minnesota. Oops. A new one will be shipped to us soon…
The dishes: we happen to have a dishwasher and discovered that the detergent that we were told to buy by someone who has been here for a while is actually for laundry. Our sink is also very small, so we have a dish tub on the counter and rinse the dishes in the sink.
-Eggs come in 10s instead of dozens…metric system!
-Lots of things are sold by the kilo or gram here that aren’t sold by weight in the US. Even soft serve ice cream cones say how much they cost for 100 grams, or whatever amount.
-Chips: they have typical flavors, as well as mushroom and ham flavors, but no tortilla chips.
-Ketchup and other condiments come in a bag instead of a bottle.
-Ice cream comes in a bag.
-Milk comes in a small bottle or in shelf-stable cartons, in 1.5, 2.5, 3.5 and 4.5% varieties. You can get milk in a bag too!
-The macaroni I found is about twice the length of American macaroni and kind of spirals around…I love it! There are no boxes of mac-n-cheese or tuna helper though.
-Spices come in little envelopes instead of plastic containers. It’s kind of nice that you can buy one envelope for maybe 20 cents instead of a whole bottle if it’s something you don’t use much of. On the other hand, it’s easy to spill them!
-I found some German redi-whip type stuff called "Schlag Wunder" that is amazing. It actually stays puffy and doesn't "melt" quickly like redi-whip does.
-Vanilla comes in a little packet and is called "vanilla sugar" or something like that. It's a powdered flavoring or some sort.
-Sugar and salt are much coarser ground in Ukraine than they are in America.
-Most bread comes "open stock" on the shelves. The loaf Bill bought this morning was still warm!
-Things they don't have here (or at least not in many places): chocolate chips, tortilla chips, cooking spray, baking powder, brown sugar, ranch dressing, pancake syrup (I made my own from sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and water and it is amazing!), sliced lunch meat and pre-shredded cheese. We'll have commissary privileges at the American Embassy soon to be able to buy some of the above items. I'm sure things will be expensive, but it will be nice to perhaps buy a bag of chocolate chips or tortilla chips, or maybe some cooking spray.
After four weeks, I’m feeling like I’m getting the hang of “cooking in Kiev”. I made a devil's food cake from scratch today (no cake mixes here!) and it turned out great, although I don't think they have powdered sugar, so I didn't make frosting. When we come home, I’m be excited to have items that I’ve missed, and cooking will certainly be easier, but I know there are new items here that I’ll miss too…maybe I can have you all over for some Ukrainian dishes that I’ll learn to cook this year.
Until then, have some ranch dressing and chocolate chip cookies for me!