In different places I’ve traveled to around the world, I’ve always found it interesting to stop in restaurants that are trying to promote some sort of “American” theme. It provides a good look at what other countries and cultures think of us. Kyiv was no different, as there were some culinary influences from different parts of the world present in their food options. Sushi and pizza were two examples, and these are often offered in the same restaurant.
One day after our sons were born, my wife and I decided to hit one of these “American” joints. She doesn’t eat meat, but I do, and I felt like a big, greasy cheeseburger for some reason. Given the wide variance of food in just about every restaurant we visited in Kyiv, we were pretty sure she’d be able to find something for lunch as well.
We walked into the place and sat down at our underground booth, as a lot of restaurants, along with entire sects of society, existed under the streets of Kyiv. The host handed us a pile of menus, which had also become commonplace in Kyiv. It wasn’t unusual to have three or four menus in front of you. I pushed the pizza and sushi menus aside and started looking at the choices for burgers. Of course, I couldn’t read anything, but picked a photo out of a burger that had a lot of cheese on it and what looked like bacon.
I pointed to this photo for our server and she nodded. My wife had some sort of seafood sandwich thing, or at least that was our best guess. Soon afterward, the server came back with our drinks, a big bowl of those puffy Asian “chips” things that have the texture of Styrofoam but that are actually pretty tasty, and this weird black thing, neatly tied into a bundle —->
I picked the thing up and examined it carefully. What the bejesus was this now? My wife saw me investigating my mystery item, and she started wondering what was going on as well. Since neither of us had any idea what was happening, I opened it carefully. Turns out that it was a pair of pretty heavy-duty rubber gloves.
Why would I need a pair of rubber gloves? Was there a medical exam or surgery involved with my burger? We looked around at other patrons for the first time, and that’s when we noticed that a few other people were wearing their gloves while they ate their burgers. This was so odd to both of us, but just another thing that was natural in Kyiv but totally unfamiliar to us.
When my burger came, I eschewed the gloves, peeled off the obligatory layer of cucumber that came on every hamburger everywhere in Kyiv, and enjoyed my meal, latex-free. The cheeseburgers I had while there weren’t bad. Nothing was grilled, but nothing was terrible, either. I don’t know why everyone insists on cucumbers on their hamburgers, but those were easy enough to remove, even without the help of gloves.
The longer we lived in Kyiv as more-or-less regular people, the more we experienced things like this, that were not even given a second thought by natives but that were completely bizarre to newcomers. Rubber gloves for hamburgers was added to the list that included confusing/stressful bathroom choices, underground malls, parking on sidewalks and many other things. These were all little things that we learned to laugh at while there, considering we had a lot of stressful things already happening.