One day in St. Petersburg*, Daniel and I went to a restaurant called “Teplo”. The restaurant was located in the basement of the building across the street from our hotel. It was probably some “fancy” restaurant, we could only get there by reserving a table by phone.
To be honest, I don’t remember the details of the interior, but it was somehow crowded, a lot of tables, a lot of people, a lot of waiters scurrying back and forth.
I was completely unaccustomed to restaurants, and I felt extremely uncomfortable. I wanted to have dinner and leave as soon as possible.
I tried to eat very carefully and intelligently. And then I saw Daniel dunks the bread in the soup.
Oh my God! In Russia people don’t do that in restaurants.This is considered uncultured.
“Fansy” restaurant, lots of tables, lots of people and waiters….
What to do? How to say politely? How to say politely in English, don’t do that?
I said: if you spread butter on your bread, it would taste better.
I thought: no one will dip bread and butter in the soup.
Daniel listened to me, buttered the bread, folded it in half with butter inside, and… dipped it in the soup.He agreed that borsch tasted better with bread and butter, and calmly continued the meal.
I gave up. I just wanted to eat my dinner and leave.
I told him about my emotions and thoughts about that dinner a year or so later, when I more or less learned how to speak English.
We laughed. But I still didn’t fully understand what it was: American mentality or American idea of freedom, the belief that you can do anything if it doesn’t harm others. I have to confess, I like to dip bread in sour cream. But I can’t imagine myself doing this in a restaurant. I guess I’m still not imbued with the American mentality.
Recipe for Ukrainian borscht, told me by a Ukrainian girl Natasha many, many (maybe more than 20) years ago.
Cook meat until tender in a pot.
Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pan, add onion ( choppe half rings), add carrot peeled and shredded, fry for a few minutes, add tomato paste (1-2 tablespoon), add broth from the boiling meat, and grated garlic. Reduce the heat, stew.
When meat is cooked, add chopped cabbage, boil it for 3-5min, add peeled and cubed potato, boil potato for 3-5 min, add fried vegetables from the frying pan, add salt and pepper.
Reduce the heat, add a bay leaf. When cabbage and potato are almost ready, add grated cooked beets, chopped parsley and dill. Remove the bay leaf from the soup.
Turn off the stove, let it “brew”. Serve with sour cream.
It is believed that borscht tastes better the next day.
Personally, I like hot borscht with bread and cold butter. Daniel likes dipping buttered bread into the soup. He thinks it’s delicious! And I just like when he eats what I cook.
*2013, February, Daniel and I came to St. Petersburg to “meet in person”.