Food on the Ukrainian Frontline

It’s below freezing in the Ukrainian trenches, dug just a few hundred yards away from Russian-backed separatists. There’s regularly a ceasefire violation around here – sniperfire or mortar rounds shot at the troops wearing blue & yellow patches, the flag of Ukraine, on their shoulders. They run regular rotations into the trench to peer across no man’s land… and then retreat to their command posts, repurposed houses along the front.

In one, a wood-fired stove burns in the small kitchen, and soldiers pull wooden stools up to a table laden with pickles, boiled eggs, and toast. Kittens loll in a box by the stove, soaking up the heat and a snooze while it’s quiet.

A cook boils a huge tureen of chicken soup – with pasta and potatoes – on the gas burner; and from another pot dishes up plates of Ukrainian kasha, a buckwheat grain cooked risotto-like with carrots and small pieces of meat.

We pull up stools and rip up pieces of cured bacon to add to the porridge. The braver among us add whole pieces of garlic.

This is true stick-to-your-ribs food, tasting all the better when there’s ice and snow on the ground outside. Fortifying and warming, and just the boost you need to get back out there in the frozen mud.

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