When it comes to travel, most of my bad decisions involve food. I really love tasting the local cuisine and will try (almost) anything once. Ukraine was no different. Most of what I ate was (probably) safe to eat, but somethings probably could have been left alone. I didn’t take pictures of the real Ukrainian food (Celentano’s doesn’t count), but I wish that I had. So, I am going to attempt to describe to you some of the local fare which could have been left alone.
- KBAC (pronounced kvas)–The best way to describe KBAC (which I am writing in all caps because the Cyrillic letters look like those capital letters) is a fermented beverage which is sort of related (second cousin, thrice removed) to a non-alcoholic beer. A good KBAC tastes almost like an Arnold Palmer (half tea, half lemonade). What makes this beverage questionable is the best ones are sold from vats on the side of the road. You really don’t know the last time that vat was cleaned, the conditions in which the KBAS was brewed, or any of that clean stuff Americans tend to take for granted. We didn’t have any of the super shady stuff (but only because the opportunity never presented itself), but some of the guys bought a glass from almost every vendor we saw in Kiev.
- Salted Fish–Think of fish jerky. While not the grossest thing I’ve ever eaten, salted fish is certainly far from my favorite snack. I don’t know how to describe the tasted other than salty fishy taste. If I needed to eat it to survive, I could do it. However, my life would be perfectly fine if I never had to put a piece in my mouth again.
- Fried pastry with “beef” inside–While at the market, we saw a booth selling these fried pastry things with “beef” inside. Maxim urged JJ and I to try one (and he got one, too). This pastry was delicious. I mean, you can’t really go wrong with fried bread and beef. Or so we though. Later, Max told us there was a high probability that a portion of the “beef” was actually cat…as in stray cat. Even now, my stomach churns slightly at the thought. JJ was happy because he doesn’t like cats. I, on the other hand, was thinking about all the diseases those cats must have, in addition to the fact that I do own a cat, though he does have a decent amount of meat on him. Cats are plentiful, and it used to be very common for Ukrainians to eat cat because it was one of the few protein sources available. I, however, will be a little more wary about Ukrainian mystery meat.
- Raw pork fat, dipped in salt–Yes, you read that correctly, raw fat. The fat was probably the grossest thing I ate–not necessarily because of the taste, but simply from the idea of eating raw fat. It tasted like a mild, not good bacon grease. Ukrainians eat fat like we eat butter (on bread, in crepes, etc). I gave it a try because it’s local fare, and you gotta try this stuff at least once, right? I should have taken the clue, though, that Max was not partaking, even though he was encouraging JJ and I to eat it. JJ did not. At the time, I, admittedly, thought he wussed out a little. Looking back, though, he may have been the smarter of the two of us.
In case you are wondering, I do have a list of things I probably won’t ever try:
- Eel–I had a traumatic experience with a live eel as a child
- Anything I’m supposed to eat while it’s still alive
- Snake, if I have to choose the snake while it’s still alive
- Headcheese or brains in any form
- Bloodpudding (mostly because of the name)
- Any monkey or ape–it’s a little too close to cannibalism for me.
- Any organ–I like muscle. The idea of eating kidney, heart, etc, just grosses me out
- Magic mushrooms, even if ginger is available to eat with them