Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

Food in Russian and Ukraine: Of Trees and Pigs

August 30th, 2009
A common food in Ukraine

The worst food in Russia - Salo

One of you guys asked about the FOOD IN UKRAINE, which I’ll get to, at least in part. Today I’ll cover the worst Russian food. The reader also asked about sports here, but all I’ve seen is soccer, soccer,soccer, and a bit of street hoops. Ok, so here’s today’s blog post:

This city is so green and lush. If the trees had it their way, there wouldn’t be a building or even a brick in sight, but instead one endless forest. And since there’s virtually no landscaping whatsoever (which is GREAT, by the way. How I despise those noisy, polluting leafblowers which are ubiquitous in the U.S. and do nothing other than blow leaves and debris from the sidewalk, onto the street and into the air. Can anyone say broom?) What was I saying? Oh, yeah, so since there’s no landscaping, the grass grows full length. As do the weeds. It’s a jungle out here. And it often looks like it’s snowing; there’s some tree from which falls this cottony/snowy substance. Anyway, it’s been a long time since I’ve lived in so verdant a city.

This is a bit of a non-sequitor, but they eat pig fat here. In my opinion Salo (pig fat) is the worst food in Russian/Ukraine. It’s not pickled, not fried, not prepared in any way, in fact. Just a white slab of pig fat, which they then slice into thin strips and eat on bread or crackers. I’ve been offered it more than once in the little time I’ve been here. My landlord Oleg offered to leave me his pig fat in the fridge, as incentive for moving in. Pig fat, you say? Hand me that lease immediately!

Anyway, more about food in Ukraine: For breakfast I either cook kasha (which is boiled oats. That makes it porridge, I guess? Tastes decent enough, and cheap.) Or I eat muslix cereal.
The other meals vary. Every day I have Greek Salad, which is delicious and consists of the following: diced tomatoes and cukes, olives, fetta cheese, diced yellow peppers, and a very tasty light dressing similar to Italian. So, that’s a given, whether I make it at home or buy it in some cafe.

I like pelmeni, which are basically small raviolis with various fillings. They cook in seconds. I occasionally make pasta, but you can’t find spaghetti sauce here. I’ve bought several versions of their spaghetti sauce, and they’re simply ketchup. Yuch. I also do chicken and rice sometimes. And smoked fish on fresh bread. I would kill for good cheese just haven’t found any cheese whatsoever that’s worth commenting on. And toss in lots of baked bread products. The other day the bakery made this mini loaf of what was basically pound cake with a thicker, darker crust. Oh my God was that delicious. I have GOT to find a different route home!

And there you have it. A snapshot of the food in Ukraine.

EX-PAT SHAKEDOWN – Bribery and Corruption in Ukraine and Russia

August 24th, 2009

russian-bribe-corruptionBribery is alive and well in the F.S.U. I’ve written an article about my own experience bribing my way past an airport official to get a bottle of wine on my flight, but that was only one story. Since then, others have come in.

A reader in Vladivostok told me about his run-in with a traffic cop. He has a Russian driver’s license and all the necessary documents. As far as he could tell, he wasn’t doing anything worthy of being pulled over, but the cop standing on the side of the road nevertheless waved him over. As soon as the cop heard his British accent, the slot-machine sounds of hitting the jackpot must’ve been ringin in the cops ears. For the apparent violation of not adhering to the correct lane (although there are no lane divisions on that particular road), this guy had to pay an on-the-spot fine of 200 rubles. Such a fine breaks ones morale more than one’s wallet.

Another reader, let’s call him Michael, said he walking out of a bar in Simferopol, Ukraine when three cops jumped him and hauled him down an alley to a makeshift interrogation room. They made him empty his wallet on the table and helped themselves to all but a five-spot enough for bus-fare back to his flat. As far as he could make out, he was being fined for not having his immigration card with him, though most ex-pats don’t carry it with them. The safest place for this vital document is either locked in your apartment, or in a safe at the bank. In any case, it’s clear these uniformed hooligans were simply looking for some quick drinking money and found an easy target.

A third reader, an older man from Texas, told about the time taking the train from Kiev to Moscow. When Russian border agents came on the train at the crossing point, this Texan was told he’d have to leave the train because he didn’t have the right type of visa. His was a multiple-entry business visa, and they claimed he was obviously traveling for pleasure because American businessmen always travel by plane. The Texan’s fine was a hefty 400 rubles.

I still think these are isolated incidents. I’ve been living for over a year safe and sound here in Sevastopol, Ukraine, and that one bribe I made was of my own choosing. It was indeed my fault for not checking the bag that had the wine. These other guys who knows. Three or four samples does not make for sound, statistical evidence. But if you have your own stories of having to pay impromptu fines to Russian authorities, please send them in.