Horilka is one of a number of traditional alchoholic beverages of Ukraine. It has a long history and is intertwined with much of Urkainian culture. Below is an excerpt from Natalie Kononenko's excellent article on Urkainian wedding traditions. You can see the full article at brama.com.
A meal is served at each house, after which the mother of the groom dispatches him and a special train (poizd) to the home of the bride.
This train is met with mock resistance, especially at the gates of the bride's house, and the groom has to pay a ransom, usually horilka and small amounts of money. After the ritual resistance, the groom's wedding train is admitted, and after further demands for payment from the groom, permitted to join the bride's family at the table.
A more elaborate meal is served and the bride's wedding cake (korovai) is cut and distributed, with the guests offering gifts in exchange for horilka and pieces of the cake.
Known as the "bread basket of Europe", Ukraine is famous for its various agricultural products. This abundance has given rise to an equally rich culinary array that includes meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, flour, cereal, milk dishes, here also belong the well-known sausages, roasted meat, vareniks, dumplings, porridges, fritters, ryazhenka.
There are a number of Ukrainian websites where you can try your linguistic skills on what is truly a specialized vocabulary! A handful are listed below.
"Paskhy are ritual breads baked for Easter. They are also prepared for the commemoration of the dead that occurs after the Easter holiday. Provody, also called Hrobky, was originally supposed to take place on the Tuesday following St Thomas Sunday, in other words the Tuesday of the week following Easter week. Now that relatives are no longer buried in one local cemetery, Provody is celebrated at some point, usually a Sunday, between Easter and Pentecost. In Mundare, Alberta, Provody was scheduled for the afternoon of May 13. Therefore, Anne Mayko was making four paskhy, one for each of the graves of her relatives. She was planning to take bread and fruit for each grave. Bread is associated with seed, the grain from which flour is made. Thus the bread and the fruit together symbolize beginning and end, the full cycle of life. Bread and fruit are typically used at all commemorations of the departed."
From "Ukrainian Traditional Folklore"
Borshcht is considered to be the national dish of Ukraine. It takes its name from the old Ukrainian word for beet "brsch". There are many, many recipes for this dish. Below is one that illsutrates the abundance of foods available in this country.
From the Ukrainian Heritage Festival website at brama.com.
1 3/4 lbs. soup meat with bone (or equivalent beef marrow bone)
10-12 cups of cold water
1 teaspoon salt
1 large chopped onion
6 small beets, cut into thin strips, along with their leaves and stems
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 large potato, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped string beans
3 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup chopped tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, diced or crushed
1 tablespoon flour
salt and pepper for taste
fresh chopped dill
3/4 cup sour cream
2 or 3 bay leaves
1). Place the meat in a large cooking pot filled with the cold water. Add the salt and bring it slowly to a boil. Skim off any fat on the surface. Cover and let simmer for about 1 1/2 hours.
2). Add the bay leaves, onions, and beets and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the beets are almost done. If you are using young beets, cook them with the other vegetables. Chop up the leaves and stems of the beets and put them in.
3). Add the carrots, potatoes, celery and string beans and continue cooking another 10 minutes. Add the cabbage, cooking it until it is tender.
4). Stir in the tomatoes and garlic. Blend the flour with about 3 tablespoons of cold water. Add some soup liquid, and then add it into the soup. Add in some lemon juice to suit your taste, being careful not to add too much. Good Borsch is tart, but not sour.
5). Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Flavor it with the chopped dill.
When you are ready to serve, add some thick sour cream to each bowl full. If you reheat the Borsch the next day, don't add any sour cream. It tastes better when you add the sour cream just before serving.