Monday, March 16, 2009

Lviv and Being Resourceful

A few days ago Amy showed up at our apartment with the package of eggs you see below - cut to fit for six and tied together with the entrails of a cassette tape. She also had a Fanta bottle filled with raw milk. We'd walked past old timers selling it on the sidewalk and I hadn't even noticed that the bottles were being reused.

As a westerner it's tempting to read more than common sense and resourcefulness into this, maybe something in the spirit of the creative reuse noise emanating from Africa. That temptation has something to do with how hard pressed we are to accomplish basic behavior change in our own society. For me it also has something to do with how bats folks went at the Grand Lake Farmer's Market when vendors asked everyone to bring their own bags for Earth Day.

Ultimately a culture is either resourceful or not. Americans may be inventive and driven but this isn't the same thing. I submit as a kind of Exhibit B this tapestry at Lviv's Ethnographic Museum, the shiny bits of which are also cassette tape material. While examples of exactly this sort of material resourcefulness may abound in rural or economically depressed areas back home, Lviv isn't strictly speaking rural.

It's maybe obvious but still worth pointing out that being resourceful is no indication that a culture will stay that way. Last week I posted some photos of vegetables tied together with sewing thread. It's probably acrylic and who knows whether it's better or worse for the environment or you than rubber bands. But could you imagine a city of 700,000 in America where the majority of folks selling stuff from farm stands would have string enough on hand for it to make sense?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ramp Season in Lviv

Our stay in Lviv happened to coincide with the arrival of ramps. We noticed them for the first time a few days ago, invariably old women with huge bags full of little ramp bundles.

Not sure what the locals make of them. I heard a seller pitch them to a passerby other than us as lettuces. When Amy picked up today's batch another customer asked what to do with them. The woman selling them said that she disliked them and that people who bought them cooked them as they saw fit. Somehow this didn't deter the prospective buyer from requesting a couple of bunches, in response the woman selling them said that she'd be cooking them herself and should pick them out herself as well.

They were the real deal though. Very garlicky. Our pantry is pretty meager here, no olive oil even. When Amy asked me what I cooked them in I replied,"Bacon." Three bunches of ramps, a pound of pasta, three batons of bacon, and some peppercorns.

Purple Beans

A pot of beans that Amy found at one of the markets here in Lviv. More purple than the picasa'd photo suggests.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Café Veronika - Lviv, Ukraine

We had a mid-morning snack at Café Veronika this morning. Won't say too much about this place other than that our snack was delicious, cost more than dinner had two nights before, and that most of the people dining there were either business men or well-heeled women meeting other well-heeled women. The pastry case was an awfully compelling mix of seemingly traditional fare like cabbage-stuffed puff pastry and slicker modern-looking cakes and tarts. Amy and I tucked into our quiche while we tried to convince Axel not to touch the lace table cloth with his chocolate croissant fingers.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Another Market - Lviv, Ukraine

Yesterday we schlepped over to a train museum that turned out to be closed. We licked our wounds in a cafe alongside this market. We'd walked for half an hour at this point and the espresso, cake, and buttered toast with cured fish were very welcome. The guy one table over had more or less the same and supplemented with a vodka shot.

A cold or wet morning will more or less wipe out the weekly markets back home. This daily market was humming along with six inches of snow on the ground and a stiff wind ripping through the flimsy umbrellas. Apples looked amazing in all that snow. We got four cucumbers, half a squash, three potatoes, a few bananas, 500 grams worth of clementines, and the leeks and turnips for about three bucks.

Amy lugged Axel around on her back. In exchange for this service I carried her China Town Batz-Maru purse.

Through our first few days here, the only green things I ate were parsley and dill. We waited a long time for these cucumbers, while the woman in front of us bought a big bag of grapes. The vendor picked out each of the bad ones.

Every meal we've eaten, whether at home or our and about has been served on this scalloped white place setting. The Krakow Cafe, a fast food pizza place, and the cafe yesterday.

I mentioned the herb bundles tied together with sewing thread, but turns out bundles of jut about everything are tied together with it.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Strysky Market - Lviv, Ukraine

Getting my sea legs after two days of travel. I've thrown together a blog to capture all of my navel gazing about our trip to Lviv, but will still be posting food-related items here. Long time readers will wonder why the heck I've somewhat customized this new blog and still intermittently plug away in the minima template here. A good question which might be in need of an answer this year. In the mean time, some shots from the market we've been frequenting.

This sign reads Strysky Market. The market sits at the bottom of a hill where Strysky Park begins.

The market is housed in a permanent structure that's flanked along one side by flower stands and a guy who sells fresh fish from a truck - just like those ladies at the Old Oakland Friday market.

Inside the walls of the market there are permanent stalls for dry goods, toys, you name it. Some of the food vendors occupy these as well, but most of the action is on long tables. The box of what looks like gelatinous blood is actually a tasty apricot paste. More wet than membrillo but the same idea.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

It's Been a While

I missed some can't miss blogging opportunities during my hiatus - something to do with Facebook, Twitter, and work. There was a meal at Weihenstephan (the oldest brewery in the world), Flora & Camino cracking my line-up of cocktail destinations, and a clutch of foodstuffs and drink better than I have a right to - Bodega Bay Cheese Gouda and a Boccalone subscription come to mind. Some of you may take issue with me promoting Camino as a cocktail destination, but house-made bitters and curaçao mean someone's playing ball.

I've spent the last few days getting ready for a trip to Lviv, Ukraine. Mostly this getting ready has meant meeting friends for food I'm not expecting them to have in Lviv. Drinks at Flora a couple of nights ago, sushi at Tanuki last night, and lunch at Cam Huong.

A fried halibut, unagi, and shiso leaf concoction from Tanuki.

All this eating and drinking out is admittedly an indulgence. But over the last month we'd eaten a startling number of CSA box derived dinners. I've been softening the leafy green blows with cured meat - saucisson sec and duck prosciutto. Lviv should be more of the same I think. Amy's been there for a few days already. She called to say that I would love the markets. More soon.