A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

At the market

I had two reasons for wanting to go to the market today. I have been dying to cook myself some fish, but there is only one supermarket close enough to me that has its own aquarium (meaning the fish will be fresh), and I was told that it’s much better from the market, anyway. Additionally, I am going to cook some kind of dessert for Sharon and Amir for Rosh Hashana dinner on Monday, and I wanted to buy some berries to use as decoration. In the supermarkets, you can find common vegetables and some fruit (usually bananas, grapes, apples, oranges, nectarines, etc. sometimes in pretty dismal shape, depending on the store), but certainly no berries at this time of year, already out of season. The market, however, would still have some.

Lena and I set off after pilates, at around noon. Already, the market would be stripped of its best meats and cheeses, but our quarry would still be there. Sure enough, three hours later, I arrived home loaded up with as many groceries as I could buy with a little less than 80 grivnas (about $15).

I love the market! What a great concept! I’ve been to markets in northern Spain, Morocco, Italy, Turkey and in Israel, but none like this. This was bigger than the Spanish markets, although similarly laid out. It is probably most similar to the Jerusalem shook (not the touristy ones in the old city, mind you, the Jewish shook in the new city), although Sharon claims that it cannot compare.

Basically, it is a laberinthine structure of stores selling all kinds of goods, woven around three central zones: fish, fruits and vegetables, and meat and cheese. We went to the fish section first. This is an outdoor zone, with one giant tent covering the riverfish section, next to individual stalls with their own awnings where the seafish are sold. As Dnepropetrovsk is on a river, and the seafish would have to be imported from the Crimea, I decided to buy a karp, a riverfish found right here along the Dnepr. There were various attendents selling their fish– some dead, some alive. I found a live group that looked healthy for a good price, and I bought one. I asked the woman if she could clean it for me, and she answered that it was illegal there, but that she would do it, so would we kindly please step to the side and look at other fish while she surrepticiously killed it and removed the scales from behind the counter. Here you can see the fish, sill bloody and with loose scales, after she bagged it and handed it to me.

Our next stop was fruits and vegetables. In order to get there, we had to walk through the seafish stands (seafish is much more expensive and looked so delicious, though obviously cut and packaged for delivery from a distance), a few loose meat and chicken stands, and an entire avenue of stands selling coats, backpacks, notebooks, games, and other chatchkas that looked much more like Moroccan, Italian, Turkish, or Old City Jerusalem markets. We wove around them and found ourselves in the second large zone. This was divided between two enormous tents with tables set up in rows, about 10 rows that went on for quite a long way. Really, it was the most gigantic display of fruits and then vegetables that I have seen so neatly arranged under two tents.

It’s interesting to see what you can get here. Pomegranates are quite common, for example, as are nuts, dates, and figs, both fresh and dried. I tried a few dates, and they weren’t bad, although they are nothing compared to a fresh date from Israel, or even California. We asked where they were imported from. Iran, actually. Interesting.

Not too many berries, as they’re out of season. We did find some pretty scuzzy looking strawberries and a lovely container of raspberries, still fairly juicy and sweet. I bought these. Plums, apples, pairs, grapes, pomegranates– these were all the most popular fruits we found. A few people were selling pineapples, but these were very expensive. Lena bought a large one (Dole, because “you can’t trust anything but Dole”) for 35 grivnas. This is only $7, true, but considering how much I bought for 75 grivnas or so (you’ll see at the end), this is quite expensive! The vegetable room was selling cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, onions, more pomegranates, apples, and grapes, lots of pickles, cole slaw, and pickled vegetables, dill, and parsley.

We came out the other end and made our way into the third and by far the largest zone: meat and cheese. This was in an actual building, a giant hall with two stories that was large enough with enough windows to be a train station! The bottom floor was not as well organized as the other two zones had been; there were stations with hard cheeses next to spice stations, next to pig, next to chicken, next to sausage, next to vegetables again! It was absolutely ENORMOUS, and very clean because it was indoors. There were no flies that I could see sniffing around the meat. Upstairs was really nifty. On one side, there were random scarves, costumes, and such. We didn’t look at these. The other side was much wider, and divided into two halves– cheese and meat. The cheese was soft cheese: homemade cottage cheeses and what looked like a loose version of creamcheese, but unsweetened. You have to bring some kind of jar with you to transport it home in, as a normal plastic bag won’t work. Past the cheeses were the meats, or organs, rather, I should say. There were chickens, plucked and ready to be stuffed, with their organs lying on the table next to them. There were skinned rabbits with only the feet remaining with fur on them, their organs open to the air and ready for investigation. One woman, noticing my interest, picked up a rabbit, flipped it over on its back, and cut its spine open right along the halfway mark to show me the constitution of the bone. I didn’t understand what she was saying, but I did notice that there was some white semi-liquidy something inside the spine. I nodded my approval. This section, more than any other, had been cleaned out earlier in the day, and they were mostly cleaning up.

We left with all our booty and had to lug it for about 20-30 minutes until we each arrived at our own apartments. Check out all that I was able to buy with 75 grivnas!

1 kg of apples and pears, raspberries, a 1 kg karp, a pomegranate, chili peppers…

two green bell peppers, a nice mix of dill and parsley, 1 kg of plums, and 1 kg of muscat grapes.

Now look at the beautiful fruit platter I have out on my kitchen table, despite its being past season!



  Melina wrote @

wow, Kiev’s way more expensive than that!

  Alex P. wrote @

The bananas look like the variety imported from Central America that make their way into US supermarkets.

Do you think they come from there too?

How did you cook the carp?

  chanteuse428 wrote @

Honestly, I’m not sure about the bananas. All I know is that they’re not cheap, but they’re certainly not as pricy as pineapples, which I know for sure are imported. I would imagine, though, that they come from this side of the world, given the price and the fact that we can get them year round, even during the winter when really there are no fruits and veggies around and everyone eats pickles.

The carp was the easiest recipe. First I had to clean and de-bone it (that was my first time doing so, but now I’m quite the pro!). Then I cut it into manageable pieces about 3 square centimeters each and lightly fried them with carrots and onions. I removed the fish from the saucepan and added tomato paste to the remaining oil and veggies. I don’t remember what else I added– salt and pepper to taste, I’m sure, and maybe some fresh parsley or cilantro if I had it in the fridge. You can see pictures of it in my Rosh Hashana entry, when I served it:
Notice the head, kept separate because the head of a fish is one of the four traditional Rosh Hashana foods. I cooked this separately (and advised everyone not to eat it). I cut the head off and baked it in the oven at 175 degrees C for 20 minutes.

  chanteuse428 wrote @

And by cilantro, I meant dill.

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