‘Would You Like Gloves With That?’, Ukraine

One of the most enjoyable things about traveling to a new country is sampling the local cuisine. In addition to the ingredients themselves, the manner in which a dish is served, and eaten, is all part of a location’s unique food culture.

A few weeks ago, we were out for dinner in one of the bar-and-restaurant joints in the main street of our southern Ukrainian town. With the start of curfew now pushed back to midnight, the city has reclaimed at least part of its former nightlife, and the place was busy with punters enjoying the warm summer’s evening.

One of my friends decided to order the prawns, which arrived shortly after on a tray accompanied by a dipping sauce, fork, serviette, and something dark-coloured in a small ‘ziplock’ bag. I didn’t pay much attention to the bag, firstly because it would be weird to closely inspect someone else’s dining accoutrements, and secondly as I assumed it was just some type of refresher towelette. I was more than a little surprised when my friend opened the bag and pulled out two black medical-style gloves. Perplexed, and arguably a little dense, I asked what the gloves were for. She told me they were for keeping your hands clean while you eat your meal.

Now in Australia, we are a bit partial to a feed of prawns, but never in my life have I them served with a pair of disposable gloves. Perhaps a bowl of water and lemon with which to freshen up your hands after eating, but gloves?

Turns out, the clean and tidy Ukrainian restaurateurs also supply gloves for other potentially messy meals. I was in an eatery for lunch the other day, and decided to select the establishment’s self-titled burger. When it arrived, it was a well stacked affair, with the top bun smothered in an unusual mustardy-cheese sauce. Maintaining the burger’s structural integrity during consumption was clearly going to be a challenge, but there on my tray was a pair of surgeon’s gloves, ready for me to slap on before handling my meal.

Although generating extra waste when compared to just ducking off to the dunnies* and washing your hands after eating your prawns or unstable burger, providing gloves does seem like a very thoughtful gesture.

Next time I’m out for a feed I might order the Sweet and Sticky Smokey Ribs, or perhaps the Mexi Fest Tacos. Presumably these will be served with a pair of disposable overalls.

*‘toilets’ for our non-Australian readers

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy Making Borsch , Podcast Episode 5. Chicken Kyiv

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