Shopping for food in Ukraine can be a real experience. I talked to some new friends today who have been here less than a week. They were saying they’d like to tag along with us sometime so they can learn about some of the items that a person can find on the shelves. They had just found some wieners that their kids were ecstatic about—they said they tasted just like Oscar Meyer wieners. Makes a person want to break out in song.

A Ukrainian friend told me that when she was a little girl (she is in her mid-thirties), her mother would get her and her twin sister up at 5 AM so they could stand in lines to get things at the store. The more people in a group, including the kids, the more you could get. I can’t imagine what it was like. Sometimes they would stand all day and then the store would run out of whatever it was you were waiting for.

Today, there are things absent from the shelves—at least the things that I want to buy—like peanut butter. Very few people like it here. My problem is that I want things I am used to America. I am spoiled. Rang Hee from Counterpart International sent a jar of Jiffy to the Counterpart office in Kyiv for us. We got a call saying there was some kind of butter in a jar waiting for us. They were wondering if it would spoil if we didn’t get it immediately.

It took me a long time to find baking soda but I finally did so. Cornstarch seems to be non-existent. There is potato starch that we can thicken things with—it just makes really spongy lumps which are a little unappetizing. There are shelves full of mayonnaise and ketchup. It is difficult to find a plain one of these two items though. Meat flavored mayonnaise seems to be the favorite. There are also many other flavors, each with a unique taste. Same thing with the ketchup. Plain potato chips don’t seem to be available except for some boxed ones that are more like pressed strips. Chips come in ham, cheese, chicken, mushroom, shrimp, and several other flavors. We have found very small packages of corn chips at our closest grocery store but that is the only place we have found them. I can make “haystacks” and which I have always loved. Yeah!

The fresh produce in the spring and summer is fantastic. There are a lot of little open air markets as well as little ladies who sit along the street and sell produce. We have even found lettuce in a few places—it’s not very popular except for a garnish. Right now peaches and melons are abundant and cheap. A form of zucchini has been a staple in our diet for a few months. I really love the produce and it is inexpensive. I am sure that will be different during the winter months. I can’t bring myself to buy chicken or any kind of meat in the markets. You can see Richard in the picture and what looks like rubber chickens next to him. This was taken on a very hot day. And NO they are not rubber chickens.

Tomatoes and cucumbers have been beautiful and plentiful throughout the spring and summer. Cabbage and potatoes are also staples. And many different kinds of fruits are available if you are willing to pay the price. Ukrainian chocolate is great. We really like the 76% bars and some of the other dark, dark candy. Yet we have never found chocolate chips. Also, no liquid flavorings are available. You can buy powdered vanilla in very small packets but it is very bitter so if you don’t get it all mixed into a recipe it can ruin it.
I will write more about shopping at a later date. Just suffice it to say that it is interesting and can be a very daunting experience as well.