12 September 2014


Look. I don't need you to tell me that there is no discernible structure of reason or meaning underlying my food choices. I know that already: I am a rogue palate. But early on in my life I constructed some general guidelines that served as justification for certain decisions regarding what I would or would not eat. At the broadest level, these include rules like "no mixed food" and "individuals servings of one food cannot come into contact with other individual servings of another food." There are multiple and obvious exceptions to these very general rules: I love spaghetti bolognese, I love hamburgers, I'm generally okay with baked goods which are typically, by nature, a mix of various ingredients. But perhaps the most surprising and flagrant exception to these rules is my love for and devotion to borscht.

Borscht from the USCC. Thank you, graduating class of whatever.

Before we get started, a general note of caution to all the Ukrainians out there: what you refer to as borscht is not borscht. It is two different colours of puke layered on top of each other. When I say borscht, what I am referring to is Grand Forks Doukhobour borscht and nothing else. I also have no patience for that watery vegetable substance that I believe some non-Doukhobour Russian peasants incorrectly classify as borscht.

Grand Forks borscht is made up of 100% cream, 100% cabbage, and about 30% of other vegetables, like potato and carrots, equaling 230% of all of the deliciousness in the entire world. Sometimes there is also dill. Given the makeup of this soup, there is 0% reason for me to like it. I hate cabbage and I don't think that dairy has any place in a soup. But for whatever reason, it just works. I can't figure out if it's because I started eating it at an age before I began to develop a capacity for reason, or if it's just because it's that good. Probably a little from column A and mostly from column B.

There has always been a tradition in Grand Forks of arguments amongst Doukhobours about whose baba makes the best borscht. As someone with no Doukhobour ancestry, I can say with objective and indifferent certainty that the USCC ladies make, hands down, the best borscht in Grand Forks--no exceptions. That borscht is delicious. This is not to say that there aren't other perfectly acceptable borscht recipes floating around Grand Forks. There are. Of course there are. The Grand Forks Hotel used to throw together a decent borscht, there's always some nice looking borscht for sale at the Farmers Market, Megan makes delicious borscht, and every once in a while there will be a great (both in volume and quality) jar of borscht in my mum's fridge, courtesy of one of her friends. All that aside, none of these will ever compare with the borscht on offer at the few and far between borscht feeds at the USCC. I have long maintained that the only reason Grand Forks Secondary School should continue to exist is because inevitably the grad class of whatever year will organize a borscht feed, and hopefully it will coincide with my visit home.

Here's a picture of some borscht that I
discovered in our fridge at home. A
very welcome and pleasant surprise.

It would be unfortunate to finish this post without mentioning the delicious, thick, pillowy Doukhobour bread that accompanies borscht. That bread is the best. It is so good. It's so much better when slathered with about an inch of butter that then melts into the borscht when you dip it in. Pro Tip: the only way to eat borscht is to sop up all the liquid with two slices of break from the outset, and then finish up the stew-like, cabbage-heavy remainders.

There is nothing in this world that I love more 
Than the borscht prepared by an old Doukhobour. 

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