We grew a short row of beets this year. Husband started to talk about making borscht in June. He is an incredibly obsessive person who loves to compare and contrast recipes. Borscht recipes started to appear on the lamp table near his chair in the living room, and with difficulty he finally settled on one recipe a week or so ago. He had, of course, annotated it with suggestions from other recipes. It was a complex recipe with twenty-one steps.
Last Friday he started to make the borscht, beginning with a beef stock. That took all Friday afternoon and evening, with Husband fussing over the vegetables and herbs that were to go into the stock, and how long the stock was to cook. It was finally finished at 3:00 am Saturday morning. I strained it for him later in the morning. He fussed and fussed, asking if I should skim off all that fat, was the beef tender, and was it enough? I reassured him it was. Then the real hysteria began, with the twenty one steps.
The vegetables had to be julienned in a specific way. It was a clear borscht with beets, cabbage, onions, celeriac, carrots, potatoes, and our home grown fresh Vermont Cranberry beans. Only he could assemble the soup. I don’t quite know what the other steps were, but I went to bed at 9:00, and he finished the soup just before midnight. It made two gallons. The kitchen was in a state of continual mess and uproar the whole time the soup was in preparation. I became increasingly irritated with him. I started to argue with him over what to do with the leftover cabbage he didn’t need in the soup, a half head of savoy cabbage we had grown last year and blanched and frozen. He was going to throw it away. When I heard myself saying “You can’t throw out the rest of that cabbage! It worked really hard to grow for us!” I knew I was completely around the bend. I don’t even like cabbage. Then Husband got stuck at Step 20-correct for seasoning.
He ate some of the soup for breakfast on Sunday. He was pensive and broody all morning after that. We went to church, and as we were driving home he said we had to go to the store to get a cruet. He explained that he was disappointed in his soup because it needed more acid and herbs, and he wanted a cruet to infuse herbs and vinegar to add to the soup. No, he said, he couldn’t just use a pint jar. After a great deal of indecision on his part, we found just the right cruet to match his expectations. We went home, and he proceeded to turn the kitchen upside down (again), chopping all these herbs and figuring out what he wanted in his soup.
I had finally had it with all this obsession and brooding, and asked if I could taste the soup. It was wonderful. I told him that if he thought it needed more acid, to squeeze a God damned lemon into it and just add some fresh dill, but what ever he did he needed to be done with the soup!!! He looked stunned and seemed to come back to reality. He sheepishly agreed that I was correct, and filled up the cruet with vinegar and the herbs and put it in the fridge. I have no idea what we will do with it.
When have you got so close to something that you couldn’t see it for what it truly was anymore? How do you choose recipes? What is your favorite beet recipe?