Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kitchen Talk

Sofia's Kitchen, Verkhovyna, Carpathian Mountains

I have heard native-born Ukrainians refer to the language spoken by members of the Ukrainian diaspora, living in the US and Canada as “kitchen Ukrainian,” a not-quite contemporary Ukrainian, often with English or other influences. It is also meant to reflect the fact that many first and second generation Ukrainian Americans and Canadians learned Ukrainian from their mother or grandmothers, usually while they helped with cooking. Indeed, several friends with Ukrainian roots that grew up in the US and Canada have shared these kinds of insights. 

The Beekeeper's kitchen, Donbass Oblast
Social scientists actually use the term “diaspora language” to describe the dialects or variations of languages spoken in places of migration. These languages evolve, as all languages do, absorbing new influences and changes to their community. In the context of rapid change in Ukraine, as well as long absences from the country, language and food practices seem to be the most tangible connection to this culture for people with Ukrainian roots living in other parts of the world.

Svitlana, in her Kyiv kitchen
Through the Pickle Project, we too have learned a kind of kitchen language, Ukrainian, Russian and Crimean Tatar, spending time, mostly with women, talking about food. Standing over stoves, hunched over plants in the garden: Як ви сказали? How do you say it? 

Lenura's kitchen in Ak-Meshet, Crimea

Maybe it is because that is where Mama is, or, where the food is, or, where the work is.. Everyone is always hanging out in the kitchen. Included here are photos of some kitchens that we have been lucky enough to spend time in.

The 1970's kitchen, Pyrohiv National Museum of Folk Architecture
Of course, nothing foments fervent debate or connections to identity and culture quite like language in Ukraine. So, please consider this an open invitation to share your own thoughts, stories and experiences about the intersection of food practice, cultural preservation and food. 

Historic Photo, Ukrainian Market


  1. It was fun to see all those Ukraine kitchen pics, including Lenura's, though I don't think she has the typical kitchen in Ukraine--more like in Italy! Though that tub of mashed potatoes (or maybe it is chopped onions?), the Turkish coffee maker, and the pot heating up the milk from the village sure are typical.

  2. Hi Barb,
    Thanks for your comment. Lenura's kitchen is certainly one of the most sleek, stylish and modern we have seen! The tub on the stove is heaped with chopped onions, to mixed with meat for the Crimean Tatar filled dumplings, manti. While we waited on the dumpling dough, we paused for a coffee break at the kitchen table. Lenura made traditional Turkish coffee with hot milk, served with a very inventive stacked chocolate pastry. Delicious!