Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Around My Kitchen

First of all, I should start by saying it's really not my kitchen. Yes, I feel like I have control of it, but really, I don't. David is in there cooking now-a-days just as much as I am. But, I still can't help but call it my kitchen! David and I are both good cooks, however. I am what you call a Recipe Follower and my husband is what you call an Experimental Cook. We've found we do not do well cooking together, it just causes too much conflict in the kitchen. However, I am appreciative of a husband who can and actually enjoys cooking. Especially here in Ukraine, where you can't always find the ingredients for every recipe, my husband thrives well... and I stand back and make a batch of brownies to go with it. :)

Finding our way around the grocery store and then making those ingredients into a good meal at home has been quite an adjustment since we've moved to Ukraine. Because of that, I thought I'd take a couple minutes to post about our kitchen and some of the foods we buy here.

First of all, this is our kitchen/dining room. It is a small little place, but we've made it work well for us. We do not have a microwave yet, but plan to get one soon. It took some time to come up with a place to put it since there isn't a lot of counter space or plug-ins. (We finally decided to put it on top of the fridge when we do get around to buying one!) Anyway, our kitchen is abnormally nice for kitchens in Ukraine. You may think our oven is small, but really it's bigger than most ovens here. Our fridge is also gigantic... most fridges are about 1/2- 2/3rds this size. We are blessed and love the extra fridge and freezer space!
  • You may also notice that we have dishes drying in our cabinet above the sink. That's very traditional for over here since dishwashers are extremely rare. They drip dry above the sink and it has a nice little pan at the bottom to catch the water. It's not only convenient for a kitchen with little counter space, but it also hides the mess.
  • Between that cabinet and the sink there are Ziploc bags drying... my sister taught me that handy trick! Who would have known they'd just stick to the tile by themselves?
  • In the picture to the right, there is a white thing hanging on the wall next to the window sill. That is our radiator for the kitchen. These are in each room of our apartment, turned on in October and should be turned off sometime soon. There is no regulating the heat that comes from them, so we open windows when it gets too hot (which happens almost every day, even in the winter!).
  • Also notice the water jug on the floor. Tap water isn't good for drinking, so we refill jugs like these from a water truck that comes to our neighborhood once a week. So far, we've found two good trucks that come not far from our apartment, one on Thursday between 4:30-5:15pm and one on Saturday between 11:30-12:15pm. It's sometimes hard to be home around that time, plus a little bit of a pain to lug all that water up to the third floor, so we're looking into other options right now. Until then, we set our alarms to be home on time and are strengthening our muscles!
Now onto some of the foods we buy here. The first picture to the left is an array of some of the items in my fridge. You can probably pick out the milk, juice, mustard, and hot dogs.
  • Next to the hot dogs is one of the cheeses we buy. Cheese is not easy to pick out here. It may be labeled "Parmesan," but it will taste nothing like it. Most of the cheeses are white as well, so it's hard to pick out based on color. Honestly, we finally found two we like and have stuck to just those two cheeses. We've tried numerous others and liked some, but when we go and buy the exact same cheese the next time, it tastes completely different. We're happy we at least found two good cheeses! Another interesting thing about cheese here is that it does not melt completely in soups.
  • Next to the cheese is our butter. Butter doesn't come in "sticks" but rather "slices" that weigh 200g. It's close enough to 2 sticks, so we just round up.
  • In between the juice and the mustard is our sour cream. I have a funny story with that one. We buy most of our products in the supermarket right now, but here lately we've been getting less and less pleased with the quality of what we're buying. I mentioned this to our language teacher and she started talking to us about where she buys most of her food-- the bizarre (or outdoor market). We'll be looking into that more really soon. But, she buys almost everything there: meat, vegetables, milk, etc. etc. Even her sour cream. She says she brings it home and tests it (especially the sour cream) on her cat. She'll pour some up for her cat and if her cat eats it, she knows it's good. If her cat smells it and walks away, she knows it's bad and will throw the whole lot out. Interesting!
The next picture is items in my cabinet. You can certainly pick out most of the items here. The flour comes in bags like it does at home, potatoes in netting, etc. The sugar is in a little different container (in front of the flour) and the coke bottle looks different, but it's still easily recognized in the store.
  • On the far left is our version of canned tomatoes. They come in jars like these, whole and with their peels. So, for most recipes, we have to take the peel off and then cut each tomato up. Just a little extra work.
  • In front of the tomatoes is a sachet. That's our version of canned cream of mushroom soup. We add water, cook for a bit and it's a pretty good substitute.
  • Next to the sachet is a bar of chocolate. There are no chocolate chips here, so we buy the bars and chop them up every time we make cookies.
  • Next to the chocolate is our powdered sugar. It comes in a little different bag, but we were really happy to have found that item. You wouldn't believe how many different bags I would put my finger on (because the powder was on the outside) and then taste trying to find powdered sugar before we ran across this.
  • The squares next to the powdered sugar are our chicken bullion cubes. :)
  • Just above the powdered sugar and bullion cubes is potato starch. Another "find" of ours. They don't have corn starch here, but they do have potato starch which works the same. I had to find that the "finger taste" way as well. :)
I'm also including some pictures of a part of my spice rack. The spices come in sachets like the one to the left of this first photo. It's hard to keep those sachets sealed up properly, so I got these little metal containers and then labeled them all. My labeling system has the spice in English, then in Russian, then finally in Ukrainian. (See close up picture.) We are learning the Russian language and everyone here speaks Russian, but everything in the store is in Ukrainian. Sometimes Ukrainian is similar, sometimes it's not even close. So, knowing all three names for the spice is important.

The final picture is of a few frozen goods. You can pick out most of these, but probably not the top two. The long item is pastry dough. We can't buy crescent rolls in a can here, so we buy this, thaw it out, and cut it to suit our needs. It works quite well! The bag next to the pastry is ice cream. This is the way most of the ice cream is packaged here, but we also buy it in the plastic tubs (see just below it) because it's a lot easier to work with--the bags get messy quick. Ice cream is something we miss because it just doesn't taste the same over here, nor do they have many choices (including David's favorite mint chocolate chip). But, we've found one good chocolate we like, so we're happy we at least found that!

We are really pleased with how many things we've found over here in the grocery stores, many things we thought we'd have to bring back with us or do without. Grocery shopping for us has been quite the adventure, sometimes an exciting adventure and sometimes a frustrating adventure. But, almost 6 months later, we know where to go to get what and have adapted quite well. I hope you enjoyed this post about our kitchen and some of our foods... I enjoyed sharing!


Mary said...

I loved learning about your kitchen and the foods you eat. I know how exciting it is to find something that you've been missing. You are both really clever!

Joanna Ashlock said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! I LOVE reading about the "real life" where you are because it's something most of us have never experienced. I'm not sure I have the creativity or patience to work through something as simple as making a meal with things I'm not familiar with.

I have to share this quick story with you: Richard's aunt and uncle are missionaries in Africa and their children of course grew up there. We had his cousin stay with us this summer for a couple of weeks (she's 16). One night I made tortillini (which I bought in a bag), pasta sauce (from a jar), breadsticks (frozen in a box), and caesar salad (from a bag of salad, cheese already grated from a bag, and olives from a can). This happens to be one of my family's favorite meals. Right before we ate our cousin made the comment, "Well, I wouldn't call this cooking. This is just throwing something together."

If I didn't know better, I would have thought she was pretty sassy! I guess since I didn't roll out my own pasta, grow my own tomatoes and grate my own cheese then I wasn't really cooking!

Love you both!

Polly said...

I love those metal spice containers! Wonder how I could get some of those in the States!

Janet B said...

Enjoyed reading about your kitchen. Brought back many memories of when we first lived in Salvador and trying to figure out what was what at the grocery store. What a creative idea of having the dish drain above the sink - frees up counter space, but then again, takes up storage space. I also would hang my ziplock bags on the tiled kitchen wall. Ziplock bags were too expensive to not reuse over and over and over.... While you were typing all the food items in English, Russian and Ukrainian, did you save it to your grocery list so you could just mark out what you don't need each time and also not have to write it down in Ukrainian each time? I also wrote on my canisters and containers I used to store food items the English and Portuguese names of it. In fact, they are still on them! :) I understand about following the recipe. I don't know how people can make up recipes. I can do that with a tossed salad, but that's about it. Anyway, glad you are settling in and learning your way around the stores. Have you bought a cat yet? :) Love you guys and keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

Nancy said...

Cool, Livia! You did a good job and I learned a few more things than when I was there in February. Isn't there some magnets involved in the spice rack? I can't remember for sure.


Jenn said...

I love it!! Thanks for giving us this great lesson, guys. I love the way that even with differences in culture and language, you make lemonade out of lemons!! :) We are thinking of ya'll everyday!

Mihills Family Blog said...

Great post Liv...sounds like you're beginning to really find your way around. Sounds like the next thing you need to purchase is a cat! :-)

Love you both,


Kipi said...

Loved this post, Olivia! And I love that spice rack! Is it magnetic?

David and Olivia said...

Thanks for all your comments! Joanna, I miss those "throw together" meals! Janet and Debbie, we have been thinking about a cat, but can't quite figure out what to do when we leave on 3 month furloughs... it poses a problem with getting a pet here! :) Janet, I need to make a grocery list like that... good idea! Polly, Mom, and Kipi-- the spice containers are magnetic on the back, that's how they stick to the metal backing. I love them too!

Lori said...

What interesting information. Sorry David's missing out on Mint Chocolate Chip; that's Jonathan's favorite, too.

Dwight said...

Great report! Most enjoyable. Someday it will all be "old hat" but right now it is exciting for you and your partners. It sounds like you are being that "cultural bridge" that is so important for your overall work.

Deanna said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! I can't imagine the strength that you have to go on this wonderful adventure. It would scare me to death! You are a wonderful example of fulfilling God's plan for us.

Larissa Smith said...

It was so interesting reading this post! Ironically, most of the things that you showed are packaged the same as they are here in Peru. They love plastic bags for everything around here and canned items are SUPER expensive. Who would have thought? And we can get the same magnetic spice rack. How weird is that?

Go for it at the bazaar! We shop open markets here all the time and I love it! As for figuring out what we still need people to send from the states, mostly we've ended up wanting Velveeta and various spices or snacks. Kudos for sticking with it and figuring out food in a new country. It's not easy!

Zack said...

Olivia and David,I loved the kitchen report! It was very funny! Love y'all, miss y'all, and praying for y'all. Keep up the good work y'all are doing there!
Thank you also for commenting on my blog also! I've been going to Monty Pettyjohn's house for small group. I love it there! I am feeling at home here in Lubbock. And I love studying at Sunset! I have wonderful classmates! Their great and love them all so much! God bless y'all! Grace and Peace.

Jeanette said...

I don't really guess anyone could mail you some mint chocolate chip ice cream;)