Borsht is not just a Jewish soup
Updated: Apr 7
By Tina Micula
Pictures, Courtesy of Stefania Kirsch
When Hitler invaded Poland, my father was a young man maybe 18 years old. He tried to escape and get to France through the Pyrenees Mountains, but was unable to and fell into a ravine. He had polio and was weak. Then he was captured and placed in the prisoner of war camp. When he was in the camp, there was a Polish doctor there. They were releasing prisoners they felt would die anyway. My father was one of those, and he was released. I don't know the details but somehow he joined the Polish Army and was sent to Scotland for training.
In Edinburgh Scotland he met my mother. They eventually emigrated. My mother went to Canada, and my father went to New York where his sister was. She later moved to New York and they married.
My mother learned to speak Polish and yes my parents did use it as a kind of secret language. We did go to a Polish Catholic school and were taught polish and learned some of it just by being around our relatives. Food was a sacred thing. My father had gone hungry for so long in Poland. Whenever he would cook something he would present it to us and say isn't this beautiful!
My favorite time with the family was Christmas Eve. We would all pile in the car and go to my cousin's house. My ciocia (aunt) was singlehandedly cooking the feasts. The first course was a soup, Borscht (creamed beet soup) with Uszka (tortellini), followed by creamed herring. Fish provided the main dish of the Christmas Eve feast with sauerkraut and mushrooms (bigos). Next we had pierogi with minced pork inside. Dessert consisted of rudliki, pastries containing crushed nuts and dried fruits. There is in places a belief that whatever happens on Wigilia affects the incoming year. At the end of the meal everyone would break a piece of oplatek (blessed communion wafer) and wish each other best wishes for the coming year.
Our Polish relatives would serve cream beats as a side dish on Sundays and holidays. We thought it was the most delicious thing ever but when friends would come over they said it looked like Pepto-Bismol and few people would even taste them. Their loss! More for us!
The recipe: Tina sent this image from Wikipedia
2 16 ounce cans of whole beets grated
A quarter cup of flour
One 8 ounce container of sour cream
1 teaspoon of vinegar
1 teaspoon of sugar
Grate on large setting beets into a bowl and drain out any excess fluid. Mix in the sour cream and a flour and when it’s all combined add the vinegar and sugar
Stir it heat it and you have creamed beets