Will Dylan Eat It: Borscht

Borscht, the Horror of Eastern Europe

During the Cold War, borscht was a symbol of all things Russian and thereby Communist. It was held up as a icon of the kind of horrors the Soviet Union and its vassals inflicted on their poor kolkhozniks as they slaved for the glory of the People. To the mind of the decadent capitalists in America, the dish carried the stigma of ignominy that came with having to eat a soup of beets to survive.

Ironically, I purchased this jug of red juice in an American capitalist supermarket. Turns out Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe have been making the stuff here for years. According to the Wikipedia article, there are two kinds of borscht: hot and cold. At the time we did our little taste test, I wasn’t sure which one we had, so I talked our participants into trying it both ways. It turns out that the only kind sold in American markets is supposed to be eaten cold, so it turns out they tortured themselves for nothing. Or maybe they tortured themselves for science. Time will tell.

It's got chunks of beets in it.
Seriously, it’s got chunks of beets in it.

Joining the Maitre d’ on his culinary journey into Eastern Beetsoslovokia were two other participants. Jen and Drew volunteered to taste the full force of borscht. No beets do they fear! (The Chef himself, however, was forced to bow out due to a sudden and unexpected allergy to beets. Besides, someone has to write all of this stuff up in case the tasters don’t survive.)

Drew inspected the bottle with what seemed to be a mixture of interest and trepidation. The chunks of beet floating in it were not reassuring. The label wasn’t kidding when it said “with ground beets”. In fact, about the only ingredients on the label were beets and water.

One thing to be said for borscht: it’s an interesting shade of purplish-red. In fact, it’s rather pretty, if it wasn’t for the inherent creepiness of being pure beet soup. According to Drew:

“It looks like Easter egg coloring.�

Well, it doesn't smell too bad.
Well, it doesn’t smell too bad.

The initial sniff test failed to completely gag anyone, but it wasn’t exactly wonderful. Words fail to describe the earthy aroma of beets that wafted from the bottle the second it was opened. Within moments, then entire kitchen was filled with the stench. It is pure, concentrated beetiness.

We tried the borscht cold first (I say “we” because I was there, not because I was suicidal enough to try it). Drew was the first victim to attempt a taste. He didn’t immediately gag or explode, which left me feeling a bit disappointed. He commented that it actually tasted kind of sweet (this makes sense, since in some parts of the world beets are used to make sugar).

Jen’s turn came, and she managed to down the stuff with no ill effect, also noting the somewhat sweet flavor. Of course, being raised to love beets, her opinion may be somewhat biased. In fact, Jen summed up her and Drew’s thoughts on the flavor with this pithy quote:

“It’s beet Kool-Aid.â€?

It's beet Kool-Aid.
It’s beet Kool-Aid.

With two done and no vomit in sight, this was looking to be a disappointing day for the Buffet. We’ve tried two supposedly disgusting foods so far, and the only entertaining reaction we got was the Maitre d’s first reaction to Marmite. Seriously, why do I even bother doing this if it’s not going to gross somebody out? So I have to haul out the likes of pork brains in milk gravy to get a response out of these people?

Fortunately, there was the Maitre d’ himself there to save the experiment in the name of entertainment. Seeing that the others had actually sort of liked the borscht, he raised his cup in a jaunty toast, and then…


That’s right. The Maitre d’ took a sip and darted for the sink. This was his comment:

“It’s worse if you sip it slowly.”

Now that’s family entertainment.

About The Chef

The Chef was born 856 years ago on a small planet orbiting a star in the Argolis cluster. It was prophesied that the arrival of a child with a birthmark shaped like a tentacle would herald the planet's destruction. When the future Chef was born with just such a birthmark, panic ensued (this would not be the last time the Chef inspired such emotion). The child, tentacle and all, was loaded into a rocket-powered garbage scow and launched into space. Unfortunately, the rocket's exhaust ignited one of the spectators' flatulence, resulting in a massive explosion that detonated the planet's core, destroying the world and killing everyone on it.

The Chef.
Your host, hero to millions, the Chef.
Oblivious, the dumpster containing the infant Chef sped on. It crashed on a small blue world due to a freakish loophole in the laws of nature that virtually guarantees any object shot randomly into space will always land on Earth. The garbage scow remained buried in the icy wastes of the frozen north until the Chef awoke in 1901. Unfortunately, a passing Norwegian sailor accidentally drove a boat through his head, causing him to go back to sleep for another 23 years.

When the would-be Chef awoke from his torpor, he looked around at the new world he found himself on. His first words were, “Hey, this place sucks." Disguising himself as one of the planet's dominant species of semi-domesticated ape, the being who would become known as the Chef wandered the Earth until he ended up in its most disreputable slum - Paris, France.

Taking a job as a can-can dancer, the young Chef made a living that way until one day one of the cooks at a local bistro fell ill with food poisoning (oh, bitter irony). In a desperate move, the bistro's owner rushed into one of the local dance halls, searching for a replacement. He grabbed the ugliest can-can dancer he could find, and found himself instead with an enterprising (if strange) young man who now decided, based on this random encounter, to only answer to the name “Chef".

His success as a French chef was immediate (but considering that this is a country where frogs and snails are considered delicacies, this may or may not be a significant achievement). Not only was the Chef's food delicious, it also kept down the local homeless population. He rose to the heights of stardom in French cuisine, and started a holy war against the United Kingdom to end the reign of terror British food had inflicted on its citizens.

When the Crimean War broke out around France, the Chef assisted Nikola Tesla and Galileo in perfecting the scanning electron microscope, which was crucial in driving back the oncoming Communist hordes. It would later be said that without the Chef, the war would have been lost. He was personally awarded a Purple Heart by the King of France.

After that, the Chef traveled to America, home of such dubious culinary delights as McDonald's Quarter Pounder With Cheese. He immediately adopted the Third World nation as his new home, seeing it as his job to protect and enlighten it. When the Vietnam War began, he immediately volunteered and served in the Army of the Potomac under Robert E. Lee and General Patton. During the war, the Chef killed dozens of Nazis, most of them with his bare hands.

Marching home from war across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, stark-naked and freezing, the Chef wound up on the shores of Mexico. He spent several years there, drinking tequila with Pancho Villa and James Dean. He put his culinary skills to the test when he invented the 5,000-calorie Breakfast Chili Burrito With Orange Sauce (which is today still a favorite in some parts of Sonora).

Eventually, the Chef returned to his adopted home of America, where he met a slimy, well-coiffed weasel who was starting up a new kind of buffet - one dedicated to providing the highest-quality unmentionable appetizers to the online community. The Chef dedicated himself to spreading the word of his famous Lard Sandwich (two large patties of fried lard, in between two slices of toasted buttered lard, with bacon and cheese), as well as occasionally writing about his opinions on less-important topics than food.

Every word of this is true, if only in the sense that every word of this exists in the English language.