This Ukrainian Candy Is One of the Best Candies I've Ever Eaten
On Roshen's Minky Binkys and corn waves' "strange lsd visions with kind of joyness"
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Roshen’s Minky Binkys
When the Russian military invaded Ukraine more than a week ago, I did what so many other Americans did, I watched and read the news and felt angry and helpless.
Many Ukrainians have stayed in their country to fight. Russian citizens who were angry about the war took to the streets to protest and were arrested by the thousands. A Ukrainian woman confronted an armed Russian soldier and told him to put a handful of sunflower seeds in his pocket “so at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here.” People from nearby countries opened their homes to those fleeing the country.
A favorite pastry chef of mine, Dinara Kasko, shared videos of her city, Kharkiv, after it was attacked by Russian forces. It is horrifying. She’s also been posting resources for those of us who want to help but are unsure what to do, including links to a pastry Masterclass with Jordi Bordas that is also a fundraiser for Ukraine relief.
It’s hard to know what to do when part of the world is on fire and you’re too far away to throw any water on the flames, and I couldn’t do nothing, so I tried to show my support for Ukraine the only way I knew how. I drove down to the Ukrainian-owned market here in Nashville, Aleksey’s Market, and I bought a shitload of candy. Like, a lot. A lot, a lot. If it said “Roshen” on it — Roshen is a confectionary company with factories in Ukraine, Lithuania, and Hungary — I bought it by the pound.
I bought chocolate-coated wafer cookies called Johnny Krockers, I bought milk caramels wrapped in paper adorned with a very serious-looking cow. I bought fancy chocolates called Mont Blancs, which are made to look like mini mountains and filled with chocolate and cream fillings and other tasty ingredients including toasted sesame seeds, caramelized almonds, and hazelnuts. They are so fancy and cute!
And then, won over by the grinning monkey on the wrapper, I bought a two-pound bag of something called Minky Binky, a soft toffee filled with blueberry, strawberry, apricot, or orange jelly. It is unlike any candy I’ve had before.
The toffee is creamy and buttery. Like, astonishingly so. Looking at it you might think it has a texture comparable to Tootsie Rolls or Laffy Taffy, but it’s softer than that. You can easily stretch it out with your fingers and manipulate it like Silly Putty. Then inside the toffee is the most perfect dollop of fruit jelly.
The fruit flavor is bright and strong, powerful enough to cut through the rich, buttery toffee and kick you right in the parotid glands, releasing rivers of saliva that melt the candy into an ooey-gooey fruity buttery sweet mouthful of magic.
I cannot stop eating them. As soon as the last hint of toffee fades, my mouth craves another. And then another. I have unwrapped a second Minky Binky before I’ve finished eating the first. I have put four candies, one of each flavor, in a neat little pile on my desk and told myself I get one piece for every 200 words I write while on deadline. They’re gone before I open the Google doc.
If you’re in Nashville, go to Aleksey’s and buy as many Minky Binkys as you can. I promise I won’t horde them. If you live elsewhere, look for Ukrainian-owned or Eastern European markets in your area and go buy up all their delectable treats, from the Minky Binkys and Mont Blancs to the Johnny Krockers and serious cow caramels.
It’s not much, I know that. But it’s something.
“strange lsd visions with kind of joyness” by corn wave
I discovered this week’s song through Midweek Crisis, a great Substack newsletter written by Stygi, a writer who lives in Poland.
Every other Wednesday she sends out a curated playlist and last week’s installment was dedicated to some of her favorite Ukrainian artists. There’s a lot to explore — more than 100 songs clocking in over seven hours — but one band that has stood out so far is corn wave, a breezy, lo-fi project out of Kyiv.
Did I initially listen to them because they have a song called “yoda on ketamine”? Of course I did.
Their 2020 album dudeness — which, yes, features a sound clip from The Big Lebowski on the title track — is available on Bandcamp and at times it reminds me of Yo La Tengo’s more chill, minimalist moments.
They’ve turned things up a bit on their newest record, philosophy of structures. Think '90s Braid with softer vocals. In some songs the guitar glints like sunlight hitting the surface of the water, in others it’s distorted and fuzzy like a well-worn sweater. It has been a calming bright spot in recent days.
If you want to support the people of Ukraine, enjoy their music, eat their candy. Donate money and supplies if you’re able. Protest. Let them know you see them.
Stygi linked to a helpful list of resources that includes organizations to donate to as well as a running list of upcoming protests from around the world, and both NPR and New York Magazine have good lists going here and here, too.