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My Safta Made Borscht

by Oneg In The Arctic 3 months ago in humanity · updated 3 months ago
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Summer Heat Calls For Cold Cabbage Soup

Photo by Elise Bauer

I always thought that eating soup in the summer was beyond silly.

How could you eat something hot when it was scorching outside? And to eat cold soup? That just sounded like I forgot about it and it cooled down in my absence.

But borscht, was a year-round soup. Red and hearty like the heart of the matriarch of the family. My Safta (grandma), Safta Haya may she rest in peace, would always put so much oil and salt and flavour.

Her borscht was like a warm hug engulfing you on a chilly day.

This Polish-Ukrainian-Romanian soul warming soup has always been a staple in my family. It was a cheap soup, using cabbage, beets, onions, and potatoes, along with odds and ends of carrots, celery, and parsley. Sometimes we added sour cream.

In the winter, we ate it piping hot, and in the summer, we ate it chilled, slurping it away. Either way, once it was made, it was eaten for the next 4-5 days whether you were sick of it or not. Lunch, dinner, a quick snack, the biggest pot took up the most space in the fridge until the last spoonful was gone.

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I've eaten my mother's borscht more than anyone else's, just because of living situations, but almost every time I visited Israel, my Safta would make it.

One of my last memories of eating Safta's borscht was when my other Safta, my great-aunt, and my cousin were sitting at the table for lunch. They laughed about the heartburn and how my Safta was probably in love because it turned out so salty. She was busy bustling back and forth from the stovetop to the dining room, making sure we had everything we needed. She always did her best to take care of us. She was always filled with love for us.

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Borscht was a pretty simple soup but it took its time to cook. It was always worth it. I usually didn't help much with the cooking process, I was more of the ingredient runner.

"Bring me this, bring me that, no not that, the other one"

Somehow I already knew what was referred to, as if the ingredient list was engraved into my DNA. But ask me how to make the damn soup and I have no idea.

The women of my family could make this soup in their sleep. It was a soup of survival, a soup of scraps and some fat to make it sustaining. It was a soup of life, etched into my family's collective memory.

All I remember is how the soup bloomed in flavour. It was as if a bouquet of passionate red roses, orange daisies, and magenta azaleas transformed into soul juice. This is how I remember my Safta's borscht.

By Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

The flavour always changed. No two borscht tasted alike.

"How can it taste different? I put in exactly the same amount of everything!"

Maybe it was in the heritage of the hands. Maybe it was in the mood of the maker. Maybe it was in the oils of old age. Somehow, this soup always tasted different, but always called for seconds.

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But now, I wish I had made borscht with my Safta one more time before she had passed in October. Her soft aged hands, stained with beet juice and love. My senses, soaking in the flavour like the end piece of a loaf drenched in the last savory juices of borscht.

I miss you Safta.

And when I make borscht for my future children and grandchildren, I'll tell them all about you. Even if they think cold soup is silly.

Safta Haya

humanity

About the author

Oneg In The Arctic

Stories from the TRUE NORTH with a side of humour, adventure, good food, and snowy poetic dreams

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    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (11)

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  • Dawn Salois2 months ago

    This is such a heartfelt piece with wonderful memories.

  • Angela Derscha3 months ago

    Such a nice story.

  • Babs Iverson3 months ago

    Love it!!! Outstanding story and storytellers!!!💖💕

  • Loved how you described your Safta's borscht to be blooming with flavours

  • A wonderful story, but I do prefer my Borscht hot

  • Cendrine Marrouat3 months ago

    Food is always attached to great memories and stories. This was a lovely article!

  • Cathy holmes3 months ago

    such a heartwarming story. Well done.

  • Heather Hubler3 months ago

    A lovely tribute. Makes me want to try some!

  • Yum. There's nothing better than food made from the heart.

  • Eta George3 months ago

    I love how stories of food are related to families and good memories. Nice one!

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