It was the most unusual press conference I’ve ever attended; and I’ve sat thru Vladimir Putin’s hours-long telecast, been part of press scrums on front steps and in the tails of planes and everything in between. But today Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky decided to address several hundred journalists, not all at once but in what he described as a “press marathon” – half hour sessions around a table with 10 reporters at a time, for as long as it took. It took all… day… long.
Between sessions the President retreated behind a curtain for a break, a snack, and probably some much-needed water. With every passing hour he looked increasingly ready for a nap.
The venue chosen by the President and his staff was the newly-opened Kyiv food hall – a cavernous room lined with kiosks slinging everything from potato pancakes to pork bao. And what a delightful spot for a marathon.
Staff served a breakfast feast: open-faced roast beef sandwiches, cheese croissants, containers of caramel pudding, and traditional Ukrainian syrniki, cottage cheese pancakes. Fatter, denser and smaller than American pancakes, they’re sweet and lemony and paired with jam, honey and powdered sugar.
For lunch, out marched a string of Soviet delicacies:
Platters of mini Chicken Kyivs, breaded cutlet that’s wrapped around cold dill butter before being deep-fried – meaning any journalists unfamiliar with the dish got a hot squirt of oil on their clothes.
Plump little varenyky, Ukrainian dumplings stuffed with meat or mushroom, to be topped with sour cream.
And fried potatoes with bacon. Because sometimes you just need a double helping of grease and salt. Especially a room full of journalists and politicians in the midst of a marathon.