Iryna is originally from Kamianske (formerly Dniprodzerzhynsk), a city in central Ukraine, but has lived in the Netherlands for ten years. Iryna has a great passion for cooking, which she expresses with her Instagram account "@oekraiense.keuken". She would prefer to say that she has been cooking Ukrainian all her life and that in her family the recipes have passed down from grandmother to granddaughter, but that is not the case. However, as a result of her love for Ukrainian food, she has read several cookbooks and followed cooking courses, so that she can tell us everything about Ukrainian cuisine like no other.
Food plays a major role in the daily life of Ukrainians, says Iryna. “People in Ukraine love to eat. In Ukraine, people eat three times a day, of which at least two hot meals. Breakfast consists of what can be prepared quickly. Lunch is more extensive, usually with soup as a starter, followed by a main course and a dessert. In the evening there is also a lot of delicious food. Lunch and dinner are completely interchangeable in terms of dishes. There are no specific lunch or dinner dishes. In general, people cook themselves, but in the afternoon it is very common to eat at (cheap) special lunch places, such as in a Stolova (a lunchroom) or eatery. Ukrainians don't often go to a restaurant in the evening. “Usually they only go out for dinner on a special occasion.”
“Lunch and dinner are completely interchangeable in terms of dishes. There are no specific lunch or dinner dishes.”
When we asked what makes Ukrainian food culture different from other food cultures, Iryna told me that Ukrainian culture has been influenced by different countries for a long time. “The process of self-identification is still ongoing, so it is difficult to say where exactly the boundary is between Ukrainian and other cuisines. Many dishes that are traditional for Ukraine used to come from other cuisines, for example from the Polish, Turkish, Belarusian and Hungarian cuisine, but also from the Greek and German.” What Iryna finds very special about Ukrainian food culture is that the cuisine is sustainable. It is common to cook yourself, to avoid throwing away food and above all to use local and seasonal products. Ukrainians also strive to consume almost everything you buy. For example, all parts of animals are processed in the food, such as the heart, liver, intestines, blood and legs.
“Ukrainian cuisine is sustainable. It is common to cook yourself, to avoid throwing away food and above all to use local and seasonal products.”
All festive occasions in Ukraine are organized around food. People come together to eat well and for a long time. Iryna explains: “Whoever receives guests, cooks elaborately for many people. This hospitality is part of the Ukrainian culture. In Ukraine, dishes are not served in courses, but all at once on large dishes. Celebrations are characterized by sitting together for a long time, eating a lot, drinking alcohol, talking loudly, singing and laughing. At parties, more expensive dishes and a wide variety than usual are often served. Some celebrations have special dishes, for example the Koetja (a sweet dish of pearl barley) at a Christmas dinner or the Paska (Easter bread) or Syrna Paska at Easter.”
Iryna also explains that fine dining does not fit into Ukrainian food culture. “Ukrainians generally eat simple, tasty and a lot. The food is often not nicely presented. Also, little attention is paid to wine-food combinations, such as in France or Spain. ”
“Ukrainians generally eat simple, tasty and a lot. The food is often not nicely presented.”
Finally, Iryna reveals her favorite Ukrainian dishes. “First of all, I am a fan of Ukrainian borscht with rye bread, bacon and onion. I also like to eat varenyky with syr and dill. For dessert, I like a piece of Lvivskyj syrnyk (Ukrainian cheesecake) or syrnyky (fried cottage cheese). I love these dishes for their delicious unique Ukrainian taste.” These and other authentic Ukrainian recipes can be found on Iryna's Instagram account: @oekraiense.keuken or on her website oekraiensekeuken.nl (live soon). She strives to present as many authentic recipes as possible that are accessible and therefore very fun to try. Finally, she wanted to tell everyone: Cook sustainably and buy locally!