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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Unusual Food Cravings in PI Children

Potatoes, cabbage, bread and sausage. Hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, and bunches of bananas. Kefir, candy, and caviar.

Yes, caviar.

Our two boys distinctly remember enjoying the occasional red fish eggs at the orphanage. That must be the Russian version of the Marie Antoinette cake complex: “No matter that they’re orphans. Let them eat… caviar!” A shame it wasn’t the black Beluga.

All four of them like fishy foods, especially salty ones, such as “selyod’ka”. Or, oily like sardines. And Benedetto is right there with them, making the kitchen stink to high heaven as he opens the tiny tins and they all lick their lips like crazed cats. Even Misha and Grisha beg for a bite, while I gag and go to another room.

I’m not sure what the deal is with post-institutionalized children, but many seem to crave non-stop bananas. It might be a potassium deficiency of sorts, or the marking of their transition from one zoo to another. Often, the kids can gobble four or five a day, no problem. With time, it tapers off.

“Kapusta?” (Cabbage?) our daughters turned up their noses at a regular, raw salad placed on the table. Cooked kapusta was fine, but raw?

“Nyet:  salat–lettuce,” I explained.

Unless a salad was chopped, cooked veggies or leftover bits of meat mixed together with mayonnaise, a Russian salad it did not make. They were not impressed.

We made the bridge with potato salad, egg salad, cole slaw–anything cold and prepared with mayo was fair game. Add sliced beets, or chopped pickles, some tiny pieces of sausage or the handful of peas, and voila`: they marveled over my Eastern European meal-making abilities.

Potatoes are very positive foods in their estimation, as are hot dogs. Show me a child from Ukraine or Russia who does not like these! Usually, the hot dogs will not be eaten with a bun and potatoes need to be mashed (“puree”). Think “school cafeteria food” operating on 10% of its normal budget and you’ll have some idea of how the orphanages make do with limited funds.

“Mashed potatoes?” I ask Sashenka, spoon of the fluffy stuff hovering over her plate.

“Da, Mama, smashed potatoes, please.”

Green vegetables were an unknown quantity for them upon arrival. The malnourished, skin-and-bone older kids insisted they would die if such foods touched their lips. Rather than watch them push the veggies from one side of their plate to another, we established the rule of eating the green stuff first. Worked like a charm.

Surprisingly, sweets play an important part in the adoptee’s life, whether a piece of fruit or homebaked goods. Studies have been done linking the reaction of the brain when given sweets. It actually promotes attachment and bonding when the child links your face to sweet things.

But we always knew you were a sweet thing.

Better that than “broccoli face”.


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