A Ukrainian Alternative to a Barbecue

Since I just criticized the American barbecue parties in my previous post, I want to show you what we, the Ukrainians, do instead. We had this kind of garden party in Montreal a couple of weeks ago. Of course, the weather was pretty cool, otherwise we wouldn’t have done it.

The huge black pan you can see on the photo contains my favorite food ever. We call it “a soldier’s pottage” (the clumsy translation is all mine.) As I shared before, my maternal grandfather fought in World War II. He started the war as a teenage kid on the very first day of Hitler’s invasion of Ukraine and ended it in Berlin, on may 9, 1945 when he wrote his (and, eventually, mine) last name on the walls of the defeated Reichstag. This soldier’s pottage is what he and his comrades ate during the war.

The point of the pottage is that you place every kind of foodstuff you have available in the pot, add some water, and let it brew. Obviously, food is much easier to find in Montreal today than in the swamps of Polesie or the forests of Bayern during a war. So our soldier’s pottage ends up being far richer than the original.

This time, we added chicken, potatoes, carrots, millet, and poured in some eggs. In the past, we have used rabbit instead of chicken, canned meat (which made the pottage more like what it was originally), or no meat at all. Barley can be used instead of millet. After the pottage is left brewing for a couple of hours, you can eat it. It isn’t only delicious, it also offers us an opportunity to experience an emotional connection with the history of our family and of the entire world.

16 thoughts on “A Ukrainian Alternative to a Barbecue”

  1. Wow, that just looks delicious! Reminds me of the Mongolian hotpots. Yum!
    Do you get this dish in Russian or Ukrainian restaurants?

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    1. When I was still living in Ukraine, there were no restaurants. I have no idea how things are right now. I have a feeling that it will not taste the same if it’s mass produced. But maybe I’m just romanticizing the whole thing. 🙂

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  2. To really horrify you, do you know there’s an American version of this where everyone who comes to the party brings a different can of something and you dump it all together and cook it in a big pot over a campfire?

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          1. Yup, it’s a state fair tradition. There’s also fried cheesecake, fried kool aid, fried hamburgers and all sorts of other horrors. You should go to your state fair! (There are also more normal things to see, eat, and do).

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  3. The meal sounds not too different from soldier’s fare at most times and places. My father’s one food story of WWII was when the mess delivered an actual hot turkey dinner to the 101st Airborne (his division) Christmas day in the frozen Ardennes forest (Battle of the Bulge). This was a major morale lifter for troops chewing on scanty cold rations under fire. He said that that the weather was cold, “even for a Chicago boy”.

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  4. Як на мене, приготований на вогнищі куліш – це дійсно смачно! Основні інгредієнти куліша – вода, пшоно, яйця, сало, а пізніше стали додавати ще й консервоване свине м’ясо (тушонка). В поході така юшка давала подорожньому чи воїну (а це була традиційна їжа запорізьких козаків) багато сили, особливо коли зимно. Така досить проста їжа, сьогодні, через її калорійність і невибагливий смак, буде мало зрозуміла. Особливо тим, хто не здатен відчути в цьому смаку, ще й присмаку історії…Тому він і не має такого поширення в ресторанній культурі, яку має той же борщ. Сьогодні хіба, туристи – екстремали продовжують готувати куліш.

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