Soup season is coming for us! The colder temps and shorter days have prompted me to haul out my giant pot and start simmering some of my family’s favourites. (Not to toot my own horn, but my classic chicken soup is legendary.)
Soup is the great unifier: Not only do most individual humans like it, but every culture boasts its own unique bowls of goodness.
Especially Ukraine; or, so says chef Ievgen Klopotenko. The Kyiv restauranteur and TV host bristles at the longstanding Russian claim to borscht, which he believes to be a dish of Ukrainian origin. He is so passionate about the issue that he has founded a non-profit and brought in the big guns — UNESCO — to claim borscht for his own country, rather than a powerful state that still represents the culturally homogenizing USSR.
“After months of research to back up his claim, Klopotenko says his application is now supported by the Ukrainian government.
This, despite that the Russian Foreign Ministry tweeted last year that borscht is the country’s ‘most famous and beloved dishes.’
But Klopotenko wants to be clear that he is not looking to stir up his country’s already tense relationship with Russia over the dish. Since 2014, more than 13,000 people have been killed in Ukraine’s battle against Kremlin-supported militants in the country’s east, according to the Washington Post.
‘It’s not about fighting. It’s about how it is — that this dish is ours. It’s not Russian,’ Klopotenko said. ‘But Russians, they want to take that because they think that there is no such nation as Ukrainians.’”
Though this dispute seems small, it is symbolically huge, mixing ingredients like national identity, autonomy, and sovereignty in the simmering pot of international relations. But Klopotenko isn’t losing sight of the uniting force of soup. He believes that staking a Ukrainian claim in this small, tasty way, might serve to ease tensions between the two countries. (He also provides tips on what to look for in an authentic borscht: A sweet-sour balance and the inclusion of kvass, or fermented beet juice, for depth of flavour!)
I am inspired both politically and culinarily by Klopotenko’s quest. The latter is easier to respond to: The least I can do is try out an authentic borscht recipe, and see how we like it. Good thing my giant pot is still out and ready…!