In a little less than two weeks, I (Rachel) am marrying Tanner. It’s fucking awesome but making me a little more sentimental than is my typically stoic Capricornian wont. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on big milestones and influential people in my past. Childhood heroes, and other events I’ve had to shave my legs for. Most recently, I’ve been thinking about my exes.
When I was 23, I dated a guy who shared a one bedroom apartment about the size of a wheelchair accessible bathroom with another dude and that guy’s oppressively goth girlfriend. We ended up spending a lot of time with the (actually pretty lovely) chain-smoking couple, on the futon mattress that doubled as their bed and our couch. Somewhere between complaining about Lost and listening to John Vanderslice, his roommate introduced me to Tom Robbins’ “Jitterbug Perfume,” and I have been obsessed with beets ever since. If you’ve not read the book, stop reading on the internet and do your brain the favor. If you have: you obviously love beets, too.
Beets are just about the only vegetable left in this shitty Chicago winter. We’ve put them in a cake, made them into a salad, and have a pretty great pizza recipe still up our sleeve. But, given the air of desperation perfuming the landscape and my twenties, Borscht seems like an apt way to honor my exes.
Borscht isn’t something you want to eat every day. It’s a food that evolved out of famine; mismatched scraps stuck together trying to make the best of an unsavory situation. It is, at once, bland and intense. But it’s can be pretty satisfying when you’re cold and need a little color.
So, Brian the Vegan, Lord of the Rings Back Piece, Cum Pants, the endless list of Drummers, philosophy-majors-turned-performance-artists-turned-podcasters, and graphic designers who are really into bicycles, Dude who wanted me to throw up on him (sexually), and White Guy with Dreadlocks: While I was too good for most of you, not good enough to a few of you, and we’re all much better off today, this soup’s for you. Like our time together, it’s kind of a mess but, given the conditions, it’s the best we could do with what we have, and it even has the capacity to be pretty charming, if you hold it in the right light.
- 1 large Sweet Onion
- 3 tbsp Olive Oil
- 4 fist-sized Beets
- 4 Carrots
- 2 cloves Garlic
- 1 Potato– waxy or stachy, doesn’t matter
- 1 qt Mushroom Stock
- ¼ tsp Caraway Seeds
- ½ tsp Celery Seeds
- 4 cups Mushroom broth
- Salt, to taste
- Crème fraîche
- Fresh Dill
- Without shredding your knuckles, great one large Sweet Onion. Discard any liquid it leaves behind. Start to sweat it in a big, heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven over low heat.
- Peel and grate the Beets and Carrots; chop the Garlic finely, and dice the Potatoes with or without their peel, dealer’s choice. Once the Onion has become translucent and tender (about the time it takes to grate everything else), add all of the other vegetables and crank up the heat. Cook the vegetables until most of the moisture has evaporated and the Onions have browned on the edges.
- Add 1 qt of Mushroom Stock, along with the Caraway and Celery seeds. Simmer until the Potatoes are tender and your world is stained a deep magenta.
- Serve hot (cold borscht is for monsters), topped with a dollop of Crème fraîche, sprinkled with fresh Dill, and a big hunk of crusty bread.