The other day, a friend gave me a jar of pickled beets and it brought back memories of my childhood family dinners. Pickled beets were ubiquitous (alternated with pickled watermelon and pumpkin) during my growing-up years.
As a child, I was never fond of pickled beets. I considered their juice to be like blood that would take over my plate and contaminate my white potatoes. Were you also the kid who liked to keep their food items separate and compartmentalized?
When visiting Ukraine, I was surprised to find versions of beet decorating every restaurant dish— even breakfast —with fancy swirls. (Like we often find our entrée plates adorned with a slice of orange or twig of parsley.)
Nowadays, I prefer my beets roasted, not pickled. But my favourite way to eat beets is in soup. Borsch or borscht has many variations and I love to prepare it in a big pot, then freeze it and it always makes me feel secure knowing I have a batch of borscht in my freezer.
I’m not sure why I should be surprised to find borscht involved in the current war in Ukraine. Of course, that stupid war is affecting everything else, so why not the common borscht? UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization) protects not only historical and cultural artifacts, along with fragile natural eco-systems, it’s also protecting borscht.
Ukraine is, after all, the birth home of the famous soup and therefore it’s now on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding alongside Ukraine’s Cossack songs.
Next time I make a pot of borscht, that most satisfying of soups, I will think of Ukraine’s soul—now fighting for its right to just be itself. Ukraine and Borscht. You can't have one without the other.