Meat jello feast
It’s the first night in my temporary Ukrainian home and my host mother, Tanya, has prepared a feast to welcome me. Rye and white bread with horseradish spread; a salad of cucumber, onion, and radish; hard-boiled eggs; beans with ragu sauce; sausage, salami, and salo; a whole chicken and traditional holodets – meat jello – which I eat with the bread so as not to activate my gag reflex.
When offered food in Ukraine, you eat until what’s in front of you is finished. Nearly two hours after I begin, with Tanya watching over me the entire time, I finish my dinner, washing it all down with her homemade apricot compote. I thank her, and she tells me she’ll cook more next time – that she didn’t know I’d be so hungry.