Beets Me: A Love Letter to Borscht

By Tina

Caroline and her husband wrote and produced an illuminating and moving documentary about the time Wilt Chamberlain spent working as a bellhop on the Borscht Belt, and in doing so they learned a thing or two about the soup as well. But I laid claim to sharing Borscht early on in our soup-sharing days. I lived in Russia for several years after college, and I often feel nostalgia for those post-college years spent in changing and booming Moscow.

Although borscht’s roots are actually Ukrainian, most every family in Russia makes a beet soup. I love Borscht’s hearty, healthful, beautiful broth and preparing it for soup club gave me a pointed reason to ask every Russian-speaking stranger I met on the streets of lower Manhattan for their borscht-making tips–-in my very rusty Russian of course! Soup research as language practice: very multipurpose.

No two bits of advice were the same:

“Cube the beets and everything else! Grate all the ingredients! Add horseradish to the sour cream you must top it with at the end! Use fresh tomatoes when they are in season–otherwise forget them altogether! Parsley and dill are must-haves, but the parsley is more important. Add beans for protein; you’re a vegetarian? A great borscht needs meat, but yours will be just fine. Don’t worry! Add hard-boiled eggs only to chilled borscht. Lemon, definitely add lemon! Add vinegar to the broth? Why would you do that!”

Caroline, have I ever thanked you for giving me borscht?  It is a cultural staple and sharing it with soup club let me relive some of the priceless moments I spent in Russia years ago.

What soups are cooked in your culture? Share with us in the comment below!