How Borsch Changed My Life

There is a childhood memory of food that I recently revisited thanks to kindly neighbors who brought over some beets from their backyard garden plot. Now, I’m not one to eat beets routinely, or even occasionally. In fact I can’t remember even serving beets as a part of a meal at any time during the past two decades, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like beets. After all, I do have fond childhood memories of beets presented as Russian Borsch soup, made to perfection by my mother’s loving hand and always topped with a generous dollop of sour cream. We never failed to finish those deep pots of soup in one fell-swoop, although that was not a particularly difficult task considering there was seven of us at the table during peak family years.


Looking down at the sink full of newly trimmed and vigorously scrubbed beets I was moved by this memory to send my brother a note to see if perhaps he might have my mother’s old recipe on hand, and as luck would have it, he replied with a recipe he said was pretty close to the original. Thus, I began to prepare the ingredients. After some culinary fiddling, I ended up with a very pleasing pot of fresh Borsch Soup – so good it actually didn’t need that dollop of sour cream — but as most good cooks already know, a little sour cream will make most anything taste better!

There has been much talk about the healing power of food, but I want you to know that the healing power of this soup goes well beyond simply talking about it. But before I get to that — I will share the actual recipe:

Borsch (Updated and Improved)

3 cups shredded beets

1 cup shredded carrots

2 cups chopped onion

1-2 cups shredded cabbage

1 tablespoon butter

4 cups chicken broth (more as needed)

1 1/2 tablespoon chicken base

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

9 to 12 oz. beer

Salt & Pepper to taste

In heavy dutch oven over medium heat cook shredded beets and carrots in broth for 30 minutes or until vegetables have begun to soften. (The longer you cook over lower heat, the better your soup will be.) Salt to taste. Add butter, onions and cabbage, continue cooking until tender. Add Worcestershire sauce and beer, simmer for up to an hour checking to make sure beets do not become overcooked. Add a generous scoop of sour cream, as desired – serve and enjoy! This soup improves with refrigeration and only gets better over time.

(Hint: For those with a ‘sensitive constitution’ I recommend the use of Beano before dining or replace cabbage with equal amounts of chopped celery.)


My little soup story is not so much a story about delicious, though shockingly rosy red soup as it is about unresolved memories and emotions and how those two elements can combine over time to cause damage to the physical body. Let me explain.

Over the past several years, with the exception of the most recent few — my life has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, rough riding and unhappy and broken relationships, bullying angry male bosses and unfulfilled wishes for happiness. That is not to say there were some really great things going in those years, because some really wonderful stuff happened – regardless of the undercurrents of unrest. But those undercurrents were not always dealt with – examined as they should have been and released as part of the on-going story.  I was just too busy striving to reach a plateau of safety that would afford me the opportunity to dispel those darker times. It’s taken three years of living from that place to begin the process of looking back and then safely releasing all of those past hurts — a process that has worked at least on the psychological level – but not necessarily on the physical level.

What I’ve come to realize is that every thought, every fear, every unmet need lingers in the body – stowing away in organs, bones and even muscles until they can be properly flushed out. I actually believe that the visible process of aging that we so loath as a nation is the result of stored-up unhappy emotions and memories that eat away at our bodies over time. Even those savvy enough to realize that emotions need to be cleansed on a routine basis may not realize that the body also needs to be cleansed, or supported through the process of eliminating all of that toxic ‘stuff’. And, that brings me to beet soup.

Let me just say that I have worked diligently to exorcise my psyche of  relentlessly looping thoughts, worn out and borrowed ideas and sad memories that are oh-so ripe and ready to be released. It has been a laborious journey at times, but one that has the most amazing reward of true peace. There is no question that my mind is much more peaceful, and my heart has begun to soften and open, too. But there have been some lingering physical complaints that I just have not been able to shake – and the worst of those has finally been addressed, thanks to my mother’s beet soup. Beets, as my research tells me, seem to have some intrinsic nutritional values that provide some much needed support to a variety of organs in the human body, including the liver and heart and they provide a myriad of vitamins including a heavy dose of vitamin B.