UNESCO supports Ukrainian borscht

If you love exotic soups, chances are you’ve enjoyed a bowl of borscht (also spelled borscht, borsch, or borscht) in India. Urban restaurants in Dehra Dun in Mumbai are known to serve this essentially sour beetroot soup in both versions – hot and cold. Indian food blogs are also talking about this soup. Yet, we didn’t know that this soup was about to lose its unique identity due to the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine until UNESCO inscribed the culture of Ukrainian borscht cuisine on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding early this year. month.

If the media is to be believed, the friction between Ukraine and Russia was revealed in 2019, when the official Twitter account of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation declared: “A timeless classic! #Borsch is one of Russia’s most famous and beloved #dishes and a symbol of traditional cuisine’ followed by a series of emoticons and a line about the origin of the name of the dish.’

However, the international body has fast-tracked the nomination (originally scheduled for consideration in the 2023 cycle) as a case of extreme urgency, in accordance with Convention rules and procedures, to ensure that the ongoing war does not leave d negative impact on tradition. According to media reports, the approval came on the basis of a request by celebrity Ukrainian chef Yevhen Klopotenko, 35, who, concerned about Russia’s claim, had traveled across the country to document how borscht is part integral part of Ukrainian culture.

The main objective of UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding is to mobilize attention “to safeguard intangible cultural heritage whose viability is threatened despite the best efforts of the community or State Party”. “. Ukrainian borscht – the national version of borscht eaten in several countries in the region – is an integral part of Ukrainian family and community life. Festivals and cultural events are dedicated to him, according to the official UNESCO statement.

“Whether as part of a wedding meal, at the center of food-related competitions, or as a driver of tourism, borscht is considered part of the fabric of Ukrainian society, cultural heritage, identity and tradition,” the cultural agency said. The ongoing armed conflict has displaced people who are unable not only to cook or grow local vegetables for borscht, but also to gather to practice the element, thus threatening its viability, he said. .

Although the origin of borscht has been debated, according to the statement, the culture of borscht cuisine has long been practiced in all regions of Ukraine. The Encyclopaedia Britannica also acknowledges that although borscht is important in Russian and Polish cuisines, Ukraine is frequently cited as its place of origin. Ukraine also considers it its national dish.

However, according to the media, Russia denounced the recognition given to Ukrainian borscht. Others pointed out that countries like Romania, Poland, Moldova, and Lithuania also have their own versions of borscht. Although the red-colored borscht made from beetroot from Ukraine is the most popular, there are also other variations, according to culinary experts, such as green borscht made from sorrel or white borscht made from rye.

Borscht is said to have originated long ago when it was prepared by the Slavs using different parts of the herbaceous hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium), which likely led to the Slavic name, according to the book Food and Drink in Medieval Poland: Rediscovering a Cuisine of the Past [Dembińska, Maria (1999). Weaver, William Woys (ed.)].

Gradually, it evolved into a range of sour soups. Simply put, Ukrainian red beet borscht includes meat or bone broth with stir-fried vegetables, such as cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes, etc. The sour taste comes from the fermented beets used in the soup. Borscht can also be prepared as a vegetarian dish. Depending on the situation, this can range from a clear broth to a one-pot meal.

Communities, families and restaurants have developed their own versions of this traditional dish, with products added based on regional availability of ingredients, including mushrooms, fish or peppers. According to an Indian car guide website, one of their members also found tomatoes and apples in a restaurant in Dehra Dun.

However, the UNESCO statement mentioned that “borscht cuisine is also practiced in communities in the wider region, and although the inscription recognizes the social and cultural importance of borscht cuisine among Ukrainians, the inclusion of an item of intangible cultural heritage on a list of the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage does not imply exclusivity or ownership of the heritage concerned”.

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