Friday, July 06, 2012

Borsch is officially a dish of Ukrainian origin

But, apparently, not everyone knows that!

Recently I came across a recipe for borscht [sic], a traditional cold beet soup. It’s from The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 

The author describes it as a cool sweet-and-sour soup which was particularly popular in Lithuania, and is now one of the great Jewish standbys of the restaurant trade.

She does mention that there are lots of different Russian and Ukrainian versions of borsch (Ukrainians drop the "t").

Still, someone really should enlighten the author to the fact that it’s *our* soup. It even says so in Wikipedia!

As the grandaughter and great-granddaughter of Ukrainian immigrants, I was raised on borsch. Different kinds ... meat, meatless, with cream, cream-less, rhubarb, potluck, you name it. So I consider myself a bit of a connoissuer. And in my experience, borsch was always hot.

The first time I learned there was such a thing as cold borsch was when I was a young adult, still (relatively) fresh off the farm and living in Winnipeg.

I popped in to visit a new friend, who happened to be Jewish. When I rang her doorbell, I caught her noshing on (of all things) cold borsch ... straight out of a Manischewitz jar!

At the time what she was eating seemed as foreign to me as sashimi or goat curry (neither of which I’ve yet acquired a taste for).

For one thing ... who ever heard of store-bought borsch? Never mind cold, but with nothing but beets and broth yet. Not a shred of cabbage or beans or potato to be seen. Let alone chopped dill!

Besides, as far as I was concerned, the only kind of beets that came in a jar was the pickled kind. So ... cold borsch in a jar? That was just plain weird.

I’ve learned (and eaten) much since then, and there’s even a Ukrainian deli in my family now that sells the stuff ... the hot variety of course. (And it is the best borsch you have ever tasted!)

As for the cold variety, Sylvia Pidraziuk Molnar recently shared her recipe for chilled borsch on Nash Holos. It is one of over 200 authentic Ukrainian recipes that Sylvia (a retired Vancouver cook and cooking instructor extraordinaire) has shared with Nash Holos listeners over the years. You can find the recipe here.

Meanwhile, the Jewish version for cold borscht (borsch) that I came across is here. And if you'd like to check out the book, it's available on Amazon. Here's the info and title again: The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York.

Reading this article and the recipe brought back fond memories of my friend Marci, with whom I’ve unfortunately lost touch.

If we ever manage to re-connect I certainly hope that, in addition to the memories and catch-up stories, we will share a bowl of borsch.

Which version ... hot or cold, Jewish or Ukrainian ... well, only the future knows. 


Anonymous said...

Nicely written! One observation - the spelling of борщ in English is missing an "h". Borsh-ch (sh+ch). Kudos for not using the widely-marketed "borsht" (Jewish in origin). Borsch without the extra "h" is the German version. If we're talking Ukrainian beet soup (and not all borshchi are made strictly with beets)then it's borshch - yummy-yummy borshch! Smachnoho! Bon appetite! : )

Pawlina said...

Thanks for your comment ... and linguistic clarifications!

I was wondering about that extra "h" ... when I'm saying it I pronounce it but when writing it, guess I just get lazy, given I never learned how to type well.

Glad you enjoyed the post! It's always great to have a fellow borshch lover visit. :-)

Ken said...

At the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Philadelphia, the Missionary Sisters of Mother of God, in addition to "hot" broshch make an excellent cold borshch that is made with sour cream. Good for the summertime.

Of course, their Christmas eve (the pop up blog post application seems to want to autocorrect borsch :) ) borshch without meat.

Velselka in New York City, uses a combination of veggies and meat in their offering.

Love the recipes.

Pawlina said...

Hi Ken!

Maybe someday I'll make it out to Philadelphia and the Big Apple to sample the yummy sounding dishes at these venerable establishments. :-)

Thanks for the comment, and glad you enjoy the recipes on the show!