A Brief Culinary History of Ukraine

Appears in
The New Ukrainian Cookbook

By Annette Ogrodnik Corona

Published 2020

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It is important to review some of the country’s history, for Ukraine’s history has written her recipes.
Ukraine is an overwhelmingly agricultural nation and given its strategic location (linking Russia and Europe), it was plundered and fought over for centuries. Numerous bloody wars were fought over the fertile Ukrainian soil, tearing the country and its culture to pieces. Ukraine’s culinary history reflects this turbulent history and the blended heritage of its people is vibrant.

During the course of history, Ukrainians gallantly fought off some raids with success, but at the same time accepted and adopted some of their invaders rather strange and unusual cooking habits, techniques, tastes, and styles, while vehemently rejecting others. For example, the stuffed vegetable dishes so significant to Ukrainian cookery are actually modifications of Turkish dolmas, which when translated means “stuffed dishes.” During the course of Ukraine’s history and while fending off attacks by the Ottoman Empire, Ukrainians eagerly adopted this culinary technique and skillfully adapted it by using their own ubiquitous ingredients, namely cabbage or beet leaves, with a stuffing of meat or grain and sour cream as flavoring. As a result, holubtsi or Ukrainian “stuffed cabbage” is probably the best example of how a foreign dish was skewed to Ukrainian tastes and has long been considered an essential element of Ukrainian cuisine.