More Than Just A Soup
What is the best symbol for a Russian feast? Is it vodka, pancakes, caviar, or maybe a fight? There is one dish which is an undeniable part of the Russian cuisine – cabbage soup, which locals call "Schtchee" (it's only two letters in Russian).
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It is generally believed that schtchee appeared in XI century when Russians first saw cabbage, imported from ancient Rome. The soup quickly took roots in the country, as it was easy to cook, and all the ingredients peasants would find in their gardens: cabbage, mushrooms, carrots, onions, greenery, and meat or fish if possible. Since then, schtchee has never left Russian tables.
Let me give you an idea of how deeply schtchee has entered the Russian culture.
When citing a famous poem by Alexander Pushkin, many people would change the word "Russia" for "schtchee", as a reflection of coziness of a household. Others go further and say "schtchee spirit" instead of "Russian spirit".
Creative, isn't it?
Thus, the question of whether cabbage soup is historically Russian would not be necessary to answer. But this is not the case with borsch, schtchee's biggest competitor. It is cooked almost with the same ingredients, plus beetroots, which give it red color. Today, you can find borsch in any restaurant claiming to have Russian traditional food. But, origins of borsch are obscure, as Poland, Russia and Ukraine all claim the right to call themselves "borsch homeland".
There are some other expressions reflective of schtchee's dominance over other dishes. For example, "Everything is in the schtchee", "Russians are where schtchee is" and more.
Linguistics aside, let's see how to cook schtchee like Russian.
Put 500g T-bone veal in a saucepan over heat with a couple of liters of water and bring it to a boil. After 40 minutes, add half a teaspoon of salt.
Chop up cabbage and add it to the soup, after taking the veal out.
Chop up carrots and onions and fry them in the pan.
Peel potatoes and tomatoes and cut them in dice. Put potatoes into the soup, while tomatoes should be added to the frying pan for five to seven minutes.
Separate veal from the bone, chop it up together with pepper and a few garlic cloves.
Once potatoes are cooked, put vegetables from the frying pan into the soup. After five minutes, add veal, pepper, and garlic and let the soup boil for three to five minutes.
Traditionally, this dish is served with a spoon of sour cream and greenery.