Merry Christmas Ukraine!

You may be appalled that I am still talking about Christmas. Well, Ukrainian Christmas begins January 6, which is considered Christmas Eve, while Christmas day is then on the 7th, and the whole shebang culminates on January 19th with Epiphany.

I was happily curious after being invited to a friend's house to experience a traditional Ukrainian Christmas meal.

We began with a hearty bowl of deep-garnet Borscht studded with snowflake-like drops of luscious sour cream. The two could then be swirled together to make the most magically creamy rose soup imaginable. The sweetness of the beets and the denseness of the sour cream made for a starter that was as lovely to look at as it was to eat.

As much as I enjoyed the soup, I cast it aside the moment the piping-hot golden pierogies hit the table. My host apologized that they were not as well-formed as the ones he remembered from childhood, but I devoured the pillowy triangles of dough so greedily that I cannot even remember what they looked like. They were filled with flavorful onion-and-chive mashed potato and pan-seared in butter -- extraordinary.

The main course was cabbage rolls, which I had never before tried. The name of the dish does not give it justice. Two types were served at the dinner: one vegetarian and one not. The meat version was stuffed full of a beef, pork, and rice mixture with a hint of fresh nutmeg. Divine. The vegetarian option was filled with creminis and even more spices. Both were topped off with a smattering of flavorful tomato sauce that accentuated the cabbage instead of smothering it.

For dessert, we had a traditional honey cake. This is a very simple dessert made out of little more than eggs, flour, honey, butter and baking powder. Slightly sweet and quite dense, it probably wouldn't be immensely popular in our sugar-obsessed country, but it served its purpose as a nice closing to the traditional meal.

So at this point you have about a year to make friends with a Ukrainian so that you too can experience their unique take on Christmas. Oh, and be sure to ask for pickled herring on the side.


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