Monkeys Don’t Eat Fatback!

Kongo paid a quick visit to the Besarabsky Rynok food market in Kiev.  It is the most famous indoor food market in Kiev and if you’re used to shopping at your local Safeway or Vons in the USA, this will be a treat for you.  The market has all kinds of meats, fish, caviar, sausages, fresh vegetables, and fruit.  It’s a cornucopia of enticing smells and eye raising opportunities.  If you go to Kiev you have to put this on your must see list of things to do to truly experience Kiev.

Now this monkey is admittedly a picky eater.  It’s not that Kongo isn’t daring or adventuresome in the world of cuisine it’s just that that there are some places he doesn’t go.  Kongo is not friendly with vegetables or anything that smells even remotely like cabbages, okra, or brussels spouts.   Perhaps he was just born with a narrow range of taste buds or there’s some mental thing still going on from when he was a child and he played “I can sit at this table for the rest of my life but I AM NOT EATING THAT LIVER AND OKRA MEDLEY, Mom!”  Anyway, one thing he politely tried was the Ukrainian specialty known as salo.  This thoroughly disgusting “delicacy” is cured slabs of fatback.  Although it is often cooked, Kongo was offered it raw from a kindly grocer in the market and encouraged by his tour guide that “this is perfectly all right” tried a little bit, smiled, and moved on.  Kongo carried that piece of salo around for twenty minutes until he could discreetly find a place to dump it.  Maybe it needed more salt.

Strips of salo waiting for unsuspecting monkey tourists. This is basically nothing more than pork lard.  Sometimes you eat it with salt or pepper.  Sometimes it is cured in brine.  Some consider it a tasty snack for say, watching football (soccer) on a Sunday afternoon.  Not for this monkey.

Moving on quickly from the salo stalls, Kongo was amazed at the variety of the home canned peppers, pickles, and other colorful things he couldn’t quite identify.

Made at home canned and pickled things.
Caviar ladies in the food market. There was something sketchy about this caviar but Kongo didn’t quite pick up on all the nuances. It’s basically “black market” caviar that hasn’t gone through the tax process and sold cheaply. Kongo does enjoy caviar but after the fatback experience Kongo was wary of any more free samples.

The first picture in this post is a collection of dried fish from the Dnieper River.  Many eat this raw with beer.  Kongo actually saw this in several places as he traveled around the city.  Before you get too tempted there is one word you need to think about.  Chernobyl.  The nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986 occurred about 70 miles upstream from Kiev.  The Pripyat River which passes through Chernobyl empties into the Dnieper.  Fish in the Dnieper River have twice the acceptable levels of radiation according to the IAEA.  (And, OBTW, tap water in Kiev comes from the Dnieper River.  You can brush your teeth with it but everyone, and I mean everyone, that the monkey encountered in Kiev only drank bottled water.

Fresh fruit in the market. Prices for imported fruit are expensive by Kiev standards.
Home made sausages and (ugh!) smoked salo.

Despite radiation hazards and raw pork fat, Ukrainian food is quite tasty and Kongo did sample several dishes (and not just Chicken Kiev!) with his guide at lunch.

Travel safe.  Have fun.

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