Faith, Hope, and Love Remain

Alei's adventures in Ukraine

What’s for Dinner? April 13, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — aleicook @ 3:54 pm

Or” breakfast?”or “lunch?” for that matter are questions that I very rarely ask.  As I’ve lamely admitted before, due to limitations in budget, convenience & culinary creativity I usually make the same meals day in & day out.  While I realize it makes me sound like a bit of a drone, I’m pretty content with the system & think it may be one of the rare benefits of living solo.  At home I love to cook & was probably the only college student with a subscription to Rachael Ray magazine, but without a Jewel not to mention a Whole Foods (ohmygoodness what I would do for a trip to Whole Foods) finding new healthy recipes can seem like mission impossible. Factor in my lack of an oven or dishwasher & my temperamental kitchen sink that isn’t too fond of draining & I am just very grateful that I’ve found a few reliable dishes that keep me fat & happy.

The problem (relatively speaking) is that I’ve recently become addicted to reading healthy living blogs that include daily updates of their fun & inventive meals.  I can’t imagine why I thought that was a good idea as I don’t have a penchant for masochism, but regardless now I’m hooked & thought it would be fun to try my hand at the daily meal documentation.  Hopefully this will not only  reassure my mother that I’m eating enough but also serve as a reminder for me to be thankful a few years from now when I forget how amazing it is to have a fridge full of choices, beautiful choices.  Whining aside, I’d also like to remember how lucky I have it as a PC volunteer in Ukraine where I have the opportunity to choose between ample, safe food sources.  That’s really not a given in the world & I hope I keep that in mind while looking back at my…creative…takes on comfort food.

Breakfast~ This is probably my favorite meal of the day.  I’m a big believer in coffee’s role as the best part of waking up & as long as my big Anthropologie mug is filled to the brim with java (especially the non-instant & flavored variety thanks to my french press & generous Mom respectively) then I’m a happy camper.  And yes, I enjoy it through a straw bc I don’t want to stain my teeth & swirly straws are fun.  So sue me.  While the rest of it may look somewhat gruelish it’s actually kasha (buckwheat) that I boil with water, condensed milk, cinnamon, & bananas so it’s sweet & oatmeal-esque.  They gray blobs are called halva (sunflower seed paste) & I wish there was a less disgusting way to describe them because they’re actually a quite tasty addition.  Adding halva to kasha is a special tradition reserved for Christmas morning here, but I pull the foreigner card & celebrate every morning with this treat.

Our dining schedule is a bit different & more frequent here (as I learned very quickly during the first few months with my host family) & lunch isn’t until 3 or 4 so I usually have another cup of coffee, a banana, & toast (w/ peanut butter if I’m lucky) during a lesson off at school.


Also in the effort of time & money saving I usually make a big pot of soup or chili on the weekend & then eat it during the week after school.  Thanks to the wonder that is World Market the  soup du jour lately has been a spicy curry that I got during Christmas.  It makes my whole apartment reek but I think it’s a) kind of funny & b) a small sacrifice to make for flavor.  Thank goodness for the imported seasoning packet because my contribution to the pot was corn, lentils, & onions which would have been downright gross without the added  spices. The homemade juice in a jar was a gift from Olha’s mom & the water bottle is my best friend/security blanket that I always have with me & drink all of my water from.  Between my coffee mug & that bottle I didn’t even realize that I didn’t own a  cup until it was time for visitors to stop by my apartment last May.


I like to pretend that these are fajitas but then again  I have an active imagination & an easily impressed Ukrainianized palate.  My local store in town did step it up this year though & provided me with steady access to a bag of frozen vegetables (including green beans, corn, & carrots), a sort of spicy sauce called Mexicanski & something that very closely resembles salsa.  Throw it all in a pan with onions sauteed in cilantro & real fajita seasoning from home & I’ve got myself some dinner.  Plus an egg with cheese for vegetarianisms sake.  None too shabby.

I usually make some popcorn on the stove for a snack before bed thanks to kernels sent from home, which reminds me that all of these meals are made enjoyable thanks to fantastic contributions in care packages from you lovely people.  Really I can’t imagine what I would do without you but I’m pretty sure it would involve more cabbage & less smiles, so thank you, thank you, thank you.  Cradling granola bars, rice cakes or coffee creamer always seems like a low point, but I guess it’s OK as long as you know how much your gifts are appreciated.

So there you have it.  Save for the breakfast kasha absolutely nothing is traditional Ukrainian cuisine, but again I think I maxed out on that living in Morozivka & am quite content to save it for “special occasions” when I visit.

The main excitement around here this week was yesterday’s Jehovah’s Witness attempt.  These really sweet ladies knocked at my door right after I had gotten out of the shower & were ushered into my apartment with its music blasting & curry smell by me in my pajamas with my sopping wet hair wrapped up in a turban towel.  I’m sure they were wondering exactly what they had gotten themselves into at that point.  I invited them to sit down & then startled them by tripping on my pants & careening towards my new “workstation” (basically my laptop elevated by a foot & a half of stacked up boxes & books because I keep reading that it’s very unhealthy to sit for long periods of time) & then confused them further by being unable to pull it together & stop laughing about my near tumble.  We went through the Bible & they politely attempted to convert me while I politely tried to explain in Russian that I’m pretty secure in my relationship with God already.  Take a sec to try to mime your way into explaining why you think that the Father, Son & Holy Spirit are actually the same entity…& welcome to my world.  We didn’t manage a breakthrough of any sort, but they really were extremely nice & respectful throughout so no harm was done either.

I’ve still been running & have found that as long as I go comically slow I am capable of pounding out a 10k.  The emphasis is most emphatically on slow though as it takes me almost an hour & a half to get in the 6 miles.  I still feel pretty idiotic trudging around the stadium panting in full view of the town, but last time one of the 5th graders at my school kept me going by hollering “Alei…I love you!” every time I passed the playground equipment he was loitering on.  I don’t teach him & am not sure he actually knew what he was saying, but at that point I’ll take any encouragement I can get even the inappropriate & awkward.

And finally I would just like to point out that after the last two posts I was able to do my laundry without a cloud in the sky & my showers have been fairly warm & even pressured.  It seems to me that the Universe is trying to make me look like a liar, but little does the Universe know that I’ll take dry clothes & warm water over credibility any day.  In fact, if that’s how it’s going to go then please excuse me while I lament over the fact that good old Yampil still doesn’t have a Thai restaurant or a frozen yogurt store.  Your move Universe 🙂  Miss & love you all!


3 Responses to “What’s for Dinner?”

  1. Mom Says:

    That little boy at the track- I send him 147 haribnia a week to do that. And the food…playck!!! that’s a sound that I made when I saw each plate. I love you dearly and I am going to add Thai restaurant and frozen yogurt to the prayer list!

    • Ashley Says:

      I spent a solid minute trying to figure out what “playck” sound would be. For some reason, I first was thinking it was a clicking sound made with your tongue. I thought, odd, because my response is more like “gross”! Turns out so was yours 🙂 We miss you and your crazy food concoctions Alei, but I definitely don’t need you to go PBF’s on us until you’re back in America! K thanks 😉

      • aleicook Says:

        Hey haters, I…pretty much agree. Let’s not forget my friend that did this in Africa thought & would have displayed pictures of salty liters of camel milk & bowls of goat stew. At least I have ice cream. Eat some non-weird-noise inducing food for me please 🙂

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