Ukrainian groceries I miss

While the whole country is suffering from political insanity, let me tell you a few words about some real and simple things. Due to the specifics of my work, I often travel abroad, to the counties both near and far.  In total, I spend at least a few months a year in other countries. I usually go there for a month or longer. So I made the list of Ukrainian groceries I always put in my suitcase. One cannot find any of these food products abroad and these are the things I begin to miss very soon.

No,  you didn’t guess it right on the first try — I don’t take salo because it is forbidden to transport it across the border. Unfortunately.

But if I go abroad for a long time, I always remember to take a pack of buckwheat. It is very hard to find this grain in overseas supermarkets – once I only managed to find buckwheat in the niche store of eco-bio-goods in Serbia. The quest to find buckwheat in Sweden was unsuccessful. In Austria, supermarket assistants only throw up their hands in dismay when I ask for buckwheat and even mention a German word for it. They simply have no idea what it is. Once they even sent me to the pet food department.

That is why I often put a kilo of buckwheat in my suitcase. Just in case. It is paradoxical that I can live without it for months at home, but when I’m abroad, the same torturous thought comes to mind: I wish I had some buckwheat now!

There is another product that I always have in my luggage, and it is barberry candy. I always have a handful in my backpack or a little bag in my suitcase. I prefer barberry candy to chewing gums. In addition, it matches perfectly with the slivovica and grappa. Don’t take it for campaigning, but I always buy only Roshen barberry candy. No matter what anyone thinks, this confectionary produces the most delicious sweets in Ukraine. And besides, I don’t like anything sweet, but the barberry candy. And only because these sweets have a sour taste.

What I don’t take but always want to is a bottle of “Polyana Kvasova” soda. There is no better soda water in Ukraine. It is salty and delicious. I remember two years ago I was hungover, roaming around the streets of Los Angeles, feeling dizzy from the heat and thinking: how amazing it would be to drink some cold “Polyana Kvasova” now! To simply knock back a half-liter bottle. Yum! Remember to take the bottle with the trembita player on the cover, for all other bottles are only knockoffs. Occasionally, I want some “Zhyvchyk” (apple soda — edit.) or bread kvass, but these drinks can usually be replaced by other beverages, while “Polyana Kvasova” is irreplaceable and unique.

I often recall our so-called “Borodynskyi” black bread. You can find private bakeries and buy delicious bread abroad, but when you are used to a bitter taste of “Borodynskyi” bread, that’s what you want — a sweet-scented loaf of bread, sprinkled with some cumin on top.

Once I bought such a loaf of bread in a store selling goods from the former CIS countries. Just like the CIS itself, the store had a disgusting name “Matryoshka”, if I’m not mistaken. The bread was not imported, it was baked on the spot. It looked identically, but the taste was disappointing. The thing is that it’s impossible to get the desired result abroad, even if you follow the recipe because the ingredients are not the same.

Even if cooked by Ukrainians, borshch in other countries is a bit tasteless: beets and beans are wrong and potato is full of chemicals… One can make varenyky, but the flour will spoil everything and the taste will turn out to be only close to the Ukrainian one.

I also love soured milk. I always buy a fresh bottle on the local market in Uzhhorod and wait for it to turn sour. There is no such luxury abroad — you won’t buy any raw and unprocessed milk there. As well as the cottage cheese — don’t even expect it. If you tried the cottage cheese that is sold in Austrian supermarkets, you would immediately feel nostalgic for Ukraine.

And what are your favorite and unique Ukrainian products you miss abroad?

Anrii Lyubka

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