A morning’s work

Some years ago my parents visited us around this time of the season. They often came for my Dad’s birthday – October 24 – and I always tried to think of things they might enjoy while they were here. My father always raved about borscht and as a friend from Nelson had recently given me a recipe for one she said was wonderful, I thought it would be a good thing for my mum and I to do together. It involved lots of chopping and various kinds of cooking – vegetables simmered, sautéed, boiled, mashed. It wasn’t a red borscht and that was a problem. My parents were sceptical that a borscht could be anything other than the one they knew: beets, cabbage, vinegar, thin slices of beef, dill, a dollop of sour cream on top. And I like this kind of soup too. Barbara Kafka’s “Red Russian Soup” in her Soup: A Way of Life is a splendid example.

My mother and I made the soup. As I recall, it was pleasant to work with her in my kitchen, chopping, talking, washing the many skillets that this recipe requires (various combinations of vegetables are cooked in butter before being added to the pot). The soup was delicious. But my son heard my parents out on our sundeck (they smoked in those years) saying over and over that while it was a good vegetable soup but it wasn’t borscht. It was referred to several times after they’d returned home. “Did you ever get through that soup?” my mother asked. The implication of course was that it wasn’t a success. Yet I remember how good it was and what a perfect fall meal it made, with brown bread and cheese.

In Grand Forks last week, we had Doukhobor borscht and I realized it was almost exactly the soup I’d made all those years ago. John and I both loved it. The morning after we had the borscht at the Grand Forks Hotel, we went to a little cafe for espresso and we saw several women behind a screen grating and chopping, a pile of cabbages and a bowl of onions waiting on the table beside them. I did a little searching on the Internet and found a recipe at the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ site. It sounded very much like the recipe I’d made – I no longer have the original – so I printed it out and spent this morning making a huge pot of it. We’re having it for dinner, with the sourdough rye bread I made yesterday, but I did manage to taste it and I have to say that it’s absolutely delicious. Here’s a photograph:

 

And here’s a link to the site where I found the recipe: http://www.usccdoukhobors.org/cuisine/borshch.htm I thought while chopping and simmering and cleaning up afterwards that there is something to be said for communal kitchens with many women cooking together. The work that took me an entire morning would be so much nicer shared with others. I imagine us telling stories, laughing, maybe even singing, then sharing bowls of soup afterwards, fresh dill snipped on top and a slice of bread to soak up the juices.

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~ by theresakishkan on October 18, 2011.

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