“To You it Shall be For Meat”: A Transcultural Perspective on Foodways of Ukrainian Transnational Migrants, by Alissa Tolstokorova

All the labor of man is for his mouth,

and yet the appetite is not filled

(Ecclesiastes, 6.7.)


“Cultural tractors”[1] – this metaphor was applied to Ukrainian labour migrants by Monika Manolachi to bring into play the transcultural implications of their movement from one country to another during which they adopt different social roles and cultural experiences that allow them not only to improve their life-styles and to survive, but also to become instruments of social change and intercultural or transcultural exchanges (249). It is in this sense that Ukrainian guest workers will be addressed in order to analyze their foodways abroad. To reach this goal, more specific research issues will be tackled. These include migrants’ food preoccupations in foreign settings, as for instance, food acculturative stress and strategies of counteraction, acceleration of migrants’ cultural capital by way of new culinary and gastronomic experiences, westernization of food consumption patterns and cosmopolitization of culinary practices, the role of migrant women’s culinary capital for their cultural integration in hosting societies, and the culinary dividend earned due to the contact with a new food culture.

Migrating for better employment opportunities is not a new phenomenon in Ukraine. As elsewhere, in times of socio-economic turmoil and financial crunch, Ukrainians too have migrated in search of employment. Throughout the years of post-socialist reforms following 1991, economic migration became a fully-fledged trend and a signifier of free market transformations. During this period, transnational migration became for many Ukrainians the only survival strategy available in the new socio-economic setting. Encompassing 6.8% to 9.1% of the economically active population (ILO 2013) and 15.7% Ukrainian families who have at least one member working abroad (IOM 2008: 20), migration has had a tangible impact on Ukrainian society, community, family, and the individual.

The transnational landscape of Ukrainian labour migration covers a wide range of economic, social and cultural practices that link together the sending and receiving societies and has cultural effects on both sides of migration circuits. In conditions of ethnic and cultural isolation arising from migration, food and ethnic cuisine serve as “agents of memory” (Diner 8) enabling the symbolic reconstruction of the “whole world of home” (Sutton). Food and ethnic cuisine may also function as “cultural sites” (Fog Olwig and Hastrup), that is, as localized cultural wholes that become points of identification for people displaced by migrations. For one, such “cultural sites” are critical for sustaining social, cultural and kinship connections with the homeland and for mitigating cultural distance between the sending and receiving societies. For another, they are indispensable for the construction of “otherness,” a factor that reinforces the sense of group identity and collective belonging for migrants as well as the process of their acculturation to hosting societies.

An analysis of secondary theoretical sources on Ukrainian and, more generally, on post-socialist labour migration evinces the critical role of food and meals as integrating factors for a cultural group. Yet the transcultural connotations of migrants’ food practices have not yet attracted focused attention. This is unwarranted neglect given that the construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction of food behavior appears to be a vital key to the deeper understanding of transformations in migrants’ cultural and culinary identity incited by transnationalism. This article will address this neglect while considering closely the foodways of Ukrainian transnational migrants[2] abroad.

Conceptual Framework of the Study.

In this paper I will approach foodways of Ukrainian transnationals through a transcultural perspective developed by Wolfgang Welsh. This takes into account the internal complexities and constant variations characteristic of every culture and recognizes the degree to which cultures are becoming inseparably linked with one another. This approach departs from the idea that the image of cultures as solitary spheres no longer applies today as long as the reality of culture derives from its conception by individuals who instead of looking for cultural differences seek similarities with other cultures and possibilities to connect with them, leading to better understanding and a greater acceptance of the societal transculturality. To that end, I interpret transcultural practices as an exchange of “cultural capitals” between migrants and locals through Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of non-monetary capitals.[3]

With regards to food issues, I conceive of cultural capital as embodied into “culinary capital” and “gastronomic capital” (or “taste capital”). I define the latter as a spectrum of taste sensualities, la palette des goûts of a person gained through a variety of gastronomic experiences by means of access to different food cultures, ethnic cuisines, culinary arts (especially exquisite and outlandish). Gastronomic capital springs from such factors as class, economic and social status, age, gender, the stage of a life-cycle of its owner among others. As for culinary capital, I construe it аs a pull of culinary skills acquired throughout one’s life and measured by both a variety of skills in cooking and by their quality. Conceptualized in this way, my understanding of “culinary capital” (see Tolstokorova 2013a) differs from that of Peter Naccarato and Kathleen LeBesco, whose concept covers culinary practices and choices; their definition is, in some sense, closer to what I identify as “gastronomic capital”. I argue that although these varieties of capital are both pinned on food, they should not be confounded because they stem from different aspects of food-related experiences. Thus, somebody with a rich gastronomic capital, for instance an affluent person who has access to top quality food and wide variety of ethnic cuisines, may have no skills in cooking at all and thus have poor culinary capital. Conversely, someone with a rich culinary capital, say a pauper who knows how to cook one hundred dishes out of nothing to feed the family, as was the case with soviet women in the era of total deficit, may have a poor gastronomic capital because the assortment of foods s/he has access to might be limited. As such, gastronomic capital represents a variety of one’s cultural capital, whereas culinary capital derives from one’s human capital.

Finally, I consider Amartya Sen’s argument that “food and freedom are both central concerns in human life, and they have links that are both crucial and diverse” (Sen 79). From there, I argue that labour migration may be a culturally liberating strategy for Ukrainian guest workers given that it allows to raise their nutrition status, to gain new culinary competences and thus to accumulate richer cultural capital which provides them a wider scope of personal freedom. At the same time, it may also present some limitations leading to food deprivations and interdictions in food autonomy of some guest workers.

Research methodology

The findings herein draw on the results of a multi-staged field research, which encompassed non-participant observation, interviews and focus group discussions with returnee migrants and members of their families, as well as interviews with experts. Expert interviewing, conducted in 2008 in Kyiv and Lviv, was implemented through in-depth interviews and two focus group discussions covering 25 experts, including NGO activists, journalists, researchers at research institutions and think-tanks, policy-makers at ministries, municipalities, employment centres, embassies, and representatives of international organizations like IOM, Amnesty International, and others. Semi-formal interviewing of labour migrants, members of their families, and extended migrant networks covered 31 females and 12 males of various age groups. The research was carried out between 2007 and 2013 both in Ukraine and in recipient countries of Ukrainian labour migrants (Germany, Austria, Italy, and France). Among our respondents were migrants and returnees. Two focus group discussions were also organized with members of transnational families. The interviewing started with existing contacts with migrants and their families and in many cases followed with a snowball sampling method whereby new respondents were contacted through preceding respondents. The names of respondents in the text of interviews were changed to respect their privacy. Non-participant observation covered members of various social groups directly or indirectly related to migrant social networks: representatives of school and municipal administrations, businessmen, owners of local retail networks, and other members of local communities with a high share of migrant population. The data of field-work was supplemented by the analysis of secondary theoretical sources and an overview of media materials.

What Constitutes Food for a Guest Worker: Food Acculturation Stress in Migration and Strategies of Counteraction

As we know from the acculturation theory in migration studies, when people move from one place to another with different cultural norms, they try to adapt to the cultural standards of the hosting society. This process is known as acculturation and it is often associated with “acculturative stress,” understood as a reduction in health status, including its psychological, somatic, and social aspects (Berry et al.). I argue that in adoptive cultures migrants may confront what I call food acculturation stress, understanding it as emotional pain accompanying psychological and physiological discomfort resulting from efforts of adaptation to a new culture of food and eating. This experience is especially painful when guest workers lack an opportunity to have the food of their choice. Studies show that 36.1% of young Ukrainian migrants confronted this challenge while working abroad (MUFChY 82). Food acculturation stress may augment if it is enforced, for instance by locals. Thus, women who worked as live-in domestics have often confronted their employers’ pressure to accept the eating habits of their host families. What is more, they were inhibited from cooking for themselves and/or keeping the food of their own choice in the house. My fieldwork shows that generally migrant women-domestics tend to off-set such precarious situations by exerting strategies and tactics of resistance to limitations placed on their food consumption autonomy (see Tolstokorova 2012). For instance, Ludmilla, a domestic worker in Italy, told a story of her friend Lena who followed a “conspiracy tactics” to counteract an enforced food acculturative stress:

There was a girl, Lena, from Kirovograd. She said that her employer did not allow her to keep her own food in the house. But she was young, you know, and often craved the traditional food she used to have at home. So, she would go to those vans, you know, where they sell Ukrainian food to our people here, and buy something that Italians don’t have. Back in the employer’s house, she would go to the bathroom, turn on the water loud so that her family thought she was taking a bath, but instead she would gulp the food down. To keep it secret, before leaving the bathroom she would hide the tins or the wrappers of the food at the bottom of the trash-bin so that the family would not see anything, because otherwise she would have had a real trouble! (Tolstokorova 2013b, 102-103).

As Ragnhild A. Sollund argues, the freedom to choose for oneself what and when to eat is taken for granted by most adults, but it may be severely restricted for people living under the control of others and thus may become a topic for attention, reflection and loss for people who unexpectedly find themselves deprived of this right (78). Even subversive practices exercised by women to retain their interests and rights are not always efficient to offset this loss. Thus, the conspiracy tactics which was helpful for Lena did not serve well for Svetlana who had lost her job in the US after she had secretly attempted to cook meals for herself in the employer’s house. Svetlana was invited to work as a domestic servant by her American employer on the condition that she would not fix her own meals, because her employer hated the smell of cooking in her house. The employer preferred to have meals away from home, and was out most of the day. For Svetlana, this restriction was a nuisance as she could neither join her employer for meals nor purchase or cook meals for herself. Missing her favorite foodstuff, the woman dared fixing dinners for herself while the employer was away. She tried to remove any corroborative evidence of her secret cooking in order to avoid a confrontation with the employer, until one day she was found out. After a fierce confrontation, the domestic servant was fired. Having no residence permit, no friends in the country, and no knowledge of English, Svetlana could not secure another job and was compelled to return home practically penniless.

This story exemplifies the argument that the issues of food may operate as a means of communication that in conjunction with various aspects of dining and contexts of eating may be used to influence others (Greene 34). Food-related issues may reveal the cultural construction of “gendered geographies of power” (Mahler and Pessar) as geographic displacement of guest workers translates into “conflicting interests and hierarchies of power and privilege” (Glenn 5) marked by identity traits like gender, class, ethnicity and nationality. Migrant women themselves interpret the employers’ vigilance about their food consumption as an infringement on their personal autonomy. This has been showcased in the following testimony cited by Degiuli (199):

When I began to work for this lady, I didn’t know how to cook Italian food, and it was a big deal because she was Sicilian and food was really important to her. She would get angry about it, I had to learn to cook all her favorite dishes and that was fine, I like to cook…. The main problem was that she didn’t let me either buy or cook the food I liked. And it was hard, because, aside from missing my family and my son, I wasn’t even able to eat (Lais, a Brazilian woman in her mid-thirties).

This supports the claim that the feeling of hunger is not always due to the lack of food, but is connected to a feeling of detachment that migration may induce (Sollund 79). While for some employers the invitation to share meals is considered a convivial gesture and an attempt to break the barriers between employers and employees, for others it may be a way to control and determine what and even when the employee may eat (Degiuli 200). Even when the invitation to family meals is sincere and not mandatory, it may be perceived as a tool of control and may entail collisions, which are counteracted by the above “conspiracy tactics”. That was the case with Tamara, a caregiver in an Italian family, who had no complaints with regard to either quality or quantity of food but was not allowed to cook for herself and could have meals only together with her elderly patient. The woman conceived it as an infringement of her natural right to food autonomy and worse still, as a snub:

Of course, I am glad that I can taste Italian food and learn how to cook in the Italian way, but my employer says that I should have meals only with the family or with the old person I take care of. I mean, I can eat as much as I can, but only together with them and only what they are having and cannot have my own food, the food of my choice. They were not happy when they saw me having snacks between meals. But, you know, I am used to eating whenever I want and whatever I want. So it happens that, say, at lunchtime I don’t want to eat but a couple of hours later I feel hungry. What I do in such instance is just pick up a slice of bread or a piece of banana from the table, stuck it in my pocket, then find an excuse to sneak into my room and gape it there. And sob bitterly while eating (Tolstokorova 2013b, 102).

These narratives showcase that the issue of food deprivation and the attitude toward it by migrants may serve as a “laboratory for understanding social relations” (Warde 22) in conditions of migrancy. More specifically, they are indicative of employers’ unwillingness to perceive domestic workers as human beings with their own existential needs (Hondagneu-Sotello), and for whom “tasting food” equates to “tasting freedom”[4].

Across the multidimensional hierarchical nature of labor relations in a private household, servants’ resistance strategies against employers’ neglectfulness of their basic physiological and psychological requirements may entail the transgression of ethical norms, although unwittingly:

Once, my brother’s wife, she worked in the estate of rich people, was leaving home for vacations and invited me to take over her place to work for them. She fetched me to an old Italian man. He told me: “I will give you a bowl of soup and lodging. The rest is your responsibility.” But the wage had to arrive only after a month! How can one survive until that time? He did not give me even a piece of bread, while I was starving. So, I picked up a piece of bread, then sneaked to the toilet and swallowed it there. But I repented and after that confessed to my pastor in the church how miserable it feels to turn into a thief at my age. But otherwise I would collapse from starvation! (Medvedeva).

These interviews are illustrative of the observation that some categories of migrant communities, in particular female domestic workers living under the watchful eye of their employers, are particularly vulnerable to the experience of migratory loss. When the challenge of migration is interlocked with moving into an employer’s household, the person finds herself in a mixed set of unclear roles: as a guest, as a supposed family member and as an employee, so the subsequent loss is likely to be aggravated (Sollund 78). Even so, women confront this loss by their skillful investment of human capital into non-conflict resolution of collisions with employers in a way that does not denigrate their human dignity.

Tastes and Smells of a Foreign Land: Enriching Gastronomic and Culinary Capitals Through Cultural Contact

Despite the challenges described above in the narratives of Ukrainian guest workers abroad, my field research showed that they conceive their employment abroad not only as a strategy to secure economic and material capital, but also as a possibility to gain cultural capital, that is, to see the world and meet new people, access new standards of life, master new linguistic skills, and expand their cultural horizons. Just as importantly, migratory experiences enable them to enrich their gastronomic and culinary capitals as guest workers, as they taste ethnic cuisines and master culinary arts of host cultures. This aspect of migrants’ cultural experience abroad was brightly described in short stories by Natalya Zgodko (2009a, b, c, d), a migrant writer and a journalist working as a domestic servant in Italy. In her works, the author places an emphasis on the transcultural implications of her impressions of the Italian food style.

Another informant, Anton, a professional marine cook, while he worked in Portugal with a team of Ukrainian builders, mastered some culinary know-how of the local ethnic cuisine, which he valued both personally and professionally:

What I really enjoyed in Portugal, is their cuisine. As first, it does not differ much from ours. In fact, they eat the same stuff as we do. Well, of course, they have some unique ethnic dishes, but this is mainly for holidays, but at work they had their meals together with us and had the same food as we did. They do not favor all these porridges, noodles, all this flower staff which we are used to. No. Their meal is very simple and healthy. For lunch there is a huge piece of meat, like the size of this plate, here. And as a serving – lots of vegetables, stewed or boiled. And of course, a glass of wine is also welcome, if you wish. Meat is cheap there, not like here. And wine is cheap, have it as much as you can. Ideal food for a male. It’s nourishing, healthy and not heavy. Nothing is surplus and easy to cook. Good enough for a working man, for a muscular job. (Tolstokorova 2013a, 221-222).

This interview resonates with the argument about the cultural significance of butchery and alcohol for the social construction of masculinity in public consciousness (Fiddes; Innes; Haukanes; Neuhaus; Pilgrim).

Many women who worked in the Mediterranean relished their sojourn in this unique corner of Europe due to a possibility to learn family culture and traditions of hosting societies, to master new technologies of household management, to gain knowledge and skills on local ways of processing food, to cook and enjoy traditional meals, and to taste Mediterranean cuisine. This often entailed the enhancement of their eating habits and cooking standards. Polina, a domestic worker in Italy, recounts the story of her own discoveries in this area:

At first, when I and my woman-employer were laying the table I took some things very personally, because they were very strange for me. Say, I did not know what to answer when she asked me if 100 grams of spaghetti was enough for me for lunch. How could I know? I have never measured it that way. I used to measure it by a spoon… I was bewildered. You see, before boiling spaghetti she was making sure not to put in the pot more food than was necessary to have no leftovers! But how could I know how much exactly I needed not to feel hungry? We are not used to such things in Ukraine. At home I never weight food before cooking… If there are leftovers after lunch or dinner, I keep them in the fridge and next time just heat them before eating and do not bother over fresh meals. Well, I tell her: “OK, let it be 100 grams”. She fixed it and I realized that it was too few! I’d have to leave the table hungry! Yet, I was too shy to ask for another helping. Gosh! What a greedy person! Counting every piece of spaghetti! But later I understood that it was not her greed, but a culinary tradition. Their rule is that the food has to be eaten FRESH ONLY! No left-overs, no heating!… This is what I learned from her. And although it is a long time since I had moved away from her, I weight spaghetti before I cook! (Tolstokorova 2013a, 214-15).

Although it is argued that culturally based food habits are often among the last practices people change through acculturation (Kittler and Sucher 6), these examples prove that Ukrainian guest workers are highly prone to food acculturation by way of mastering food patterns and accepting eating habits of the hosting society. This is also seen in the following interview with Ivan:

You see, they [locals] chuck away quite good stuff…. It turned out that they never consume left-overs. As soon as food expires, it immediately goes to the trash-bin. Even if it is only one day overdue, they will never fix it. At first it was just fun for us– ha, these suckers, they have no survival skills! But then we got used to it, accepted it. Now, if the food is not real fresh, we get rid of it too.”

The lessons of food consumption that migrants learn from their foreign employers may be interpreted as a transfer of cultural meaning from one culture to another: what was at first perceived as avarice was later reconceptualized as a sign of ecological mindset and what was regarded as wastefulness was later conceived as indicative of high standards of food consumption. These episodes serve to raise migrant awareness about new norms of food consumption and enable the enhancement of their nutritional status. In terms of the theory of transculturality, they showcase that cultures are not delineated by national borders, but instead, in conditions when representatives of different cultural traditions come in close contact, their material cultures tend toward adaptation (Welsch). Not surprisingly, upon their return home from Italy, Ukrainian women “cook only in the Italian way and fetch back home tons of ready-made ‘pasta,’ they drink limoncello and amaretto in the Italian way… (Аndrukhovych). Their open-mindedness in the integration of culinary and gastronomic capitals from hosting societies into their daily life at home was confirmed by Ukrainian experts, including Georgy Seleschuk:

Here you go, a banal example from my own family life. My Mom, when she came back from her earnings in Poland, she started processing potatoes in an entirely different way than before. She realized that it was better and more convenient that way. And I know that half of her village now process it that way too (Pouzhakovska).

The above interviews point to the fact that the cultural contact incited by transnational mobility enables the augmentation of migrant cultural capital by way of acquisition of new knowledge concerning food, meals and eating, and new gastronomic and culinary experiences, which in turn lay the foundation for their transnational culinary capital. The transactions of culinary capital between nationals of hosting societies and migrant populations lead to the westernization of food consumption patterns of Ukrainian guest workers and the cosmopolitization of their culinary practices.

Sweet Treats to Good Eats: The Significance of Culinary Capital for Cultural Integration of Migrant Women

The stereotypical representation of Ukrainian woman as an ideal hearth-keeper drawing on skills traditionally assigned to women—that of accomplished cook and home-maker—has rendered female Ukrainian migrant workers highly competitive in the market of domestic labour. Culinary capital as a traditional female preserve allows them to gain new social capital among locals and serves as Bourdieu’s “symbolic capital” which leads them to pursue “carers’ careers” (Tolstokorova 2013b, 105-106) in recipient societies. This is exemplified in the story of Olga, who moved from the position of a chief engineer in the municipality of her native town in Ukraine to work as a cleaner for the municipal services in Moscow, where her income was substantially higher. In one of the houses in which she cleaned, my informant was invited to assist in fixing dinner at a family party for additional remuneration. An ardent cook, Olga willingly accepted this proposal. For her, it was not least an occasion to increase her income, but primarily a sort of professional and cultural advancement, given that in her words it was “a clean and easy job” in a private circle of the Russian elite. It was an opportunity to expose her talents and wits, her entrepreneurial self and to work for the soul and not merely for the income. Olga impressed the guests by her culinary wonders. They began to recommend her as an exquisite cook to other people of their standing and after a while she turned cooking for festive gatherings into her principle source of income.

Nadezhda, a college lecturer in her fifties who worked in Berlin for two years in order to financially ensure herself after retirement, had a similar experience in Germany. She was employed as a care-giver at a public nursing home for the elderly and had occasional moonlighting income in cleaning at private houses. In one such house, the employers asked her to cook Ukrainian ethnic cuisine. She managed to please her hosting family very much and thenceforward she was invited to fix “borsch” on weekends. Additionally, Nadezhda was recommended to other residents in the neighborhood. This allowed her to augment her social capital through new acquaintances with Berliners, who offered her extra income not only as a cleaner and a cook, but even as a dress-maker, interpreter, and translator. She thus managed to convert her Ukrainian culinary capital into financial capital in Germany. In other words, we see how women’s artistic culinary staging and gastronomic self-representation in the context of hosting cultures has enabled them to derive social and cultural significance from their home-earned culinary capital, which eventually enabled them to secure income equal to that of the middle class in Ukraine in compensation for their low social status abroad.

Cakes with Pain: Culinary Dividends of Migration

I address the culinary capital gleaned by labour migrants during their work abroad as a variety of their “social dividends” (Tolstokorova 2013c) that represent an added value of their migratory experience in the form of individual non-material accumulations: social, ethic, cultural and esthetic, educational, civic, culinary and gastronomic capitals used by migrants for the benefit of their personal development and wellbeing. The ramifications of migrants’ social dividends are culinary dividends gained via the migratory experience (Tolstokorova 2013a, 226). I define them as new knowledge, skills, and technologies of food processing as well as new habits, norms and standards of food consumption as an added value of cultural capital earned due to migrancy. As my field research shows, social dividends of migration, culinary dividends among them, are not always valued at home and returnee workers face tangible constraints trying to make a meaningful investment of them at home.

The aforementioned Anton, upon returning to Ukraine from Portugal, intended to implement his new culinary and gastronomic capitals by starting a small restaurant of Portuguese cuisine. His dream did not come true because, in addition to an unfavorable climate for small business in Ukraine, there was no demand in his small native town where traditional local cuisine is preferred to exotic cooking. A similar experience of starting a new café upon returning home was intimated by a respondent named Taras in a British study of Ukrainian returnee migrants (Kubal). Unlike Anton, he managed to overcome formal constraints in the launching of his business:

Sure, it is difficult to get along with our bureaucrats. When you ask them why and on what grounds they are delaying your permissions, they turn green with fury. Eventually they do what you need from them and not what they want. It is again the problem of our mentality. One never misses a chance to make a profit out of one’s neighbor (Kubal 16).

Hence, the culinary dividends of migrants, while having cultural and social significance for themselves as indicative of their personal growth and cultural development, may not necessarily have equal value in their community back home and, therefore, are not invested into the national economy, yielding no cultural or social interest to people.

Interestingly, in the host countries, culinary dividends earned during migrants’ sojourn there may have positive implications and even generate financial interest. A respondent named Roman, after accepting quite a few jobs in Italy, ranging from a gardener to a Pizzeria employee, decided to invest his new skills in culinary arts and business management into launching his own venture. He opened a confectionary in Rome and has achieved success as manager. The overview of media materials also finds that culinary dividends acquired abroad, in particular in Italy, may be converted into financial dividends due to a smart investment in hosting societies. They are especially pertinent if supplemented by the culinary capital transferred from Ukraine (see Tymkiv).

Final notes

Ukrainian migrants create transnational spaces through their movements, maintaining connections, building institutions, conducting transactions that influence equally the countries where they work and their homeland. By employing food as a lens through which to look and understand these activities of Ukrainian guest workers, I placed the emphasis on their transcultural connotations, starting with gastronomic discoveries in host cultures, attitudes to eating and meals in employers’ house, food preoccupations and strategies of non-conflict counteraction to infringements of personal food autonomy, staging of women’s ethnic culinary capital for the locals, and its social dividends. The results of this study allow me to argue for the effects of migrancy not only on foodways of Ukrainian transnationals, but also on their imagination and agency, underscoring the importance of cultural encounters, trans-actions, and dialogue for their role as cultural tractors on a transnational stage. However, my impression was that when addressed in these terms, Ukrainian transnationals seem to be more efficient abroad than at home, given that the cultural cargo they carry, including culinary and gastronomic capitals, has a higher demand in their recipient societies than in Ukraine. Meanwhile, at home these gears of cultural exchange may also be instrumental insofar as the cultural capital gained abroad, including social and human capital, may be used for the benefit, if not of the society at large, then at least for the families of transnationals and their closest milieu.

My general conclusion is that culinary and gastronomic ramifications of cultural capital secured by Ukrainian migrants abroad should be addressed from a perspective broader than financial, material, and consumerist alone, traditionally associated with key incentives of economic migration. The experience of guest workers abroad is culturally dynamic as they are open to the process of acculturation, and to the adaptation of new practices, standards and norms, as well as the transfer of cultural meanings from hosting societies to the homeland which are embedded into their daily practices upon returning home to Ukraine.

[1] This phrase draws on the allusion to the Oscar winning novel by Maria Lewicka (2005).

[2] Transnational migrants are here conceptualized following Peggy Levitt (2004) as those who work, pray, and express their political interests in several contexts rather than in a single nation-state.

[3] It is another way of understanding what Borjas (1992) calls “transmission of ethnic capital” which, in turn, comes from Cutler et al.’s (2005) “ethnic capital” conceived as the set of individual attributes, cultural norms, and group-specific institutions that contribute to an ethnic group’s economic productivity.

[4] “Tasting food is tasting freedom” is Mintz’s book title (1996) that underscores the importance of food for achieving a feeling of well-being and freedom.

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