I have been asked to describe my favorite meal. However, I eat way too much and have far too many isolated, favorite food & drink experiences to ever write about just one. Unfortunately they never would align themselves at one time, in one meal. Instead I will tell you about my favorite eating environment, though the food itself wasn't bad either. The environment I am talking about was when I spent a month in Ukraine, the summer of two-thousand and seven. I stayed with a host family of four and one roommate from our group, Kevin. Every morning we had breakfast with Natasha (the mom), and this is where I begin my story:
At dawn I would wake up without a single shred of “tired” left in my body. I can’t explain this. Normally I am the sleeping giant who wakes up swearing vengeance at the morning. But for some reason all of that unexplainably disappeared. In Ukraine I would wake up refreshed and ready to go. Then I’d get ready, take a shower, brush my teeth, and make my way to the kitchen. Most of the time Natasha would be standing in front of the kitchen counter tending to various simmering pans or steaming bowls. I will never forget the smell. A fresh smell like something you would expect from a garden. It must have been herbs and plants and vegetables all combining to create one amazing smell. Sometimes I would walk in and she would be cooking alone. She would turn and greet me with a smile and a nod. I would do the same. Other times Kevin would already be at the small table that was positioned in the corner; the seats that lined the walls wrapped around part of the table creating an “L”. He would be in the corner eating away, sometimes making small talk with Natasha; who by the way spoke no English whatsoever. Most of the time she would sit with us and try to talk about things. It was really pretty amazing how much we were able to communicate. With Kevin being proficient in Russian and with Natasha’s translation book, we could almost talk about anything. Throughout our morning visits we discussed politics, sports, food, education, and many other topics that have since slipped through my remembrance. Of course we could only go so deep into the details. It was just enough so that we all understood to the point where languages didn’t have to do the explaining. These were perhaps the most unique times of the trip. Nothing can replicate or come close to those mornings in that small cozy kitchen, sitting before Ukrainian food and piping hot tea, sunned by the morning, cooled by the breeze, and listening to totally different people try and talk to each other.