National cuisine is the same cultural heritage of the Ukrainian people as their language, literature, music or art, and it is worth being proud of. Home-born dishes and cooking methods serve as specific features of the nation.
The food culture of Ukraine consists of certain features: a set of food products, methods of their processing and cooking, food restrictions, daily food, a range of ritual dishes, hospitality and so on.
Factors influenced the set of food products
The leading branches of Ukrainian economy in the 19 — early 20 centuries were farming and animal husbandry. Fishing, harvesting and beekeeping were secondary directions.
The territory of Ukraine was located in several climatic zones, so it was possible to grow a wide range of vegetables and cereals. For example, southern regions were rich in gourds; the eastern lands were fertile with wheat and rye thanks to chernozem (black-colored rich soil); it was possible to harvest a good beet crop in the central part of Ukraine.
Also, geographical conditions furthered the development of gardening, which has long been an important occupation in Ukraine. Ukrainian people grew apples, pears, plums, cherries, currants.
An important branch of agriculture was animal husbandry –Ukrainians were breeding cows, sheep, goats and pigs. Milk was one of the most important food products, while meat was eaten only on holidays. Consumption of poultry (chickens, geese, ducks) and eggs was also limited, it was mainly sold.
As for hunting, it wasn’t common in Ukraine because of costliness of firearms. Wild animals and birds were mostly caught in the Carpathians and Polissya with traps or nets.
Political events also had an impact on Ukrainian food culture. Since Ukraine has long been a part of different countries, many features of foreign cuisines migrated into it. For example, roasting of products in overheated oil was typical for Tatar cuisine and ground meat for cutlets was borrowed from German culture.
By the way, there is an opinion, that the Ukrainian Cossacks began eating lard (salo) just to spite the Turks, who were not allowed to eat pork by religion.
Traditions of food culture
In general, daily food can be divided into two groups: plant food (cereals and vegetables) and food of animal origin (meat, dairy and fish).
- Cereals. High-calorie cereals were easy to cook and made up an essential part of the whole food. Ukrainians cooked porridge from wheat, barley, buckwheat, corn, millet and other cereals. Halusky and noodles were also included in the menu. And of course, rye bread always took a special place in a daily ration of Ukrainians.
- Vegetables. Vegetable dishes were traditionally cooked of beets, cabbage, carrots, garlic, onions, pumpkins and other vegetables. The most beloved food was borscht. Preferred condiments were garlic, red peppers, onion and grated horseradish. Ukrainians ate a lot of fresh and salted cucumbers and tomatoes. Of course, it is impossible to imagine daily ration without potato – a large number of simple and nutritious dishes were cooked with it.
- Meat. Meat dishes were a rarity in everyday life. Mainly people ate lard. Poultry dishes or fish were cooked mostly on Sundays.
- Dairy. Milk food was consumed more often. There were fresh and soured milk, sour cream and cheese.
Festive and ritual dishes
Festive table stood out from the everyday one. As a rule, the first dishes were served. Then there were meat dishes, in particular pork stewed with baked potato. Dumplings, dairy porridge could be served as a third course. For dessert Ukrainians preferred milk or fruit jelly.
Festive and ritual dishes can be divided into two groups:
- Dishes for family celebrations and ceremonies – wheat bread with salt, korovai, which is known as wedding bread, shishki – wedding ceremonial buns.
- Dishes for calendar holidays. The richest was the Christmas table, from nine to twelve dishes were served up. One of the main Christmas dishes was kutya – wheat porridge with honey, poppy and walnuts. Kulich (another kind of ritual bread) and pysanky (boiled and painted chicken eggs) were cooked for Easter.
Now, let’s come back to present days. The menu of modern Ukrainian cuisine, of course, differs from the old traditional one. The processes of globalization brought new products and methods of cooking, as well as new traditions. So do not be surprised, if you suddenly find a variation of pizza or sushi with lard in Ukrainian recipe book.
How and where do Ukrainians eat
According to the results of the latest sociological survey, the greater part of Ukrainians prefers home-cooked food, and only every third Ukrainian at least once a month eats out. The study showed – the younger Ukrainians are, the bigger wish they have to go out for a meal.
Ukrainians prefer food outlet with reasonable prices. Cafes or fast food outlets hold the top spot (two-thirds of all latest visits). It is also popular to eat in canteens at the place of work or study and to buy ready meals at the street kiosks. Just about 10% of respondents choose classic restaurants. As for the food delivery service, it is not really popular in Ukraine, only 2% of Ukrainians use these services.
One more interesting fact, people living in the Centre and West Ukraine prefer eating out more often than residents of Southern and Eastern cities.