Friday, November 26, 2010

Borscht by Heart, Aleksander Hemon's New Yorker Article

This week’s New Yorker (November 22, 2010) is the food issue and, among other wonderful food essays, contains an affecting article by Bosnian-American writer Aleksander Hemon, author of the acclaimed novels “the Lazarus Project” and “Nowhere Man.” Hemon tells the story of borscht in his family, carried from Galicia (now, in Western Ukraine), to Bosnia, the recipe an unwritten poem, repeated by heart in diverse but perfected recitation. Drawing on the bounty and miscellany of the kitchen garden, the soup is simple sustenance, spooned into mismatched bowls, in accordance with classic Ukrainian convention, one chuck of meat each. Hemon’s borscht is a meal of family and survival. For me too, even in modern, changing Ukraine, I have come to understand that straightforward, claret soup as both a solace and artifact of Ukrainian endurance.

What does borscht mean for you? As always, we would love to hear from you!

Other Pickle Project-relevant compositions in the Food Issue, including an amusing essay outlining the steps to sauerkraut by David Bezmozgis (Pickling Cabbage) and a profile of fermentation prophet Sandor Katz, author of the cult classic “Wild Fermentation,” (Nature’s Spoils), along with other articles of lesser Pickle pertinence, including a treatise on root vegetables and an essay by Laura Shapiro on Eleanor Roosevelt's Thanksgiving frugality.

For an abstract of Hemon’s New Yorker article, visit and notice that full access is granted with a trial of the digital subscription. New Yorker cover image by Wayne Thiebaud.