Borshch stars in Anna Voloshyna's new cookbook 'Budmo! Recipes From a Ukrainian Kitchen' – San Francisco Chronicle

Cold Borshch from “Budmo! Recipes From a Ukrainian Kitchen” by Anna Voloshyna.
Long before Ukraine became a war zone and her family was forced to flee their home, Anna Voloshyna called herself a “borshch patriot.” 
The author of “Budmo! Recipes From a Ukrainian Kitchen” wants the world to know the beet-centric soup hails from Ukraine, not Russia. She cites that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), known as an international arbiter of culture, put borshch on its endangered heritage list, recognizing its origins in Ukraine.  
“We always knew it was Ukrainian because we traced the roots. We were making borshch way before it came to Russia,” Voloshyna said. 
She wrote her book before the Russian invasion and says if she were writing the cookbook now, she’d use the spelling closest to the Ukrainian pronunciation (borshch), as opposed to the more common Russian spelling (borscht).
“For us, as Ukrainians, it’s very, very important to establish borshch as Ukrainian,” she said. “We write songs about borshch; we write books about borshch; borshch is always on the table. We truly love borshch in the Ukraine.”
Anna Voloshyna is a San Francisco chef and food blogger who was born and raised in Ukraine. Her new book celebrates Ukrainian and other Eastern European dishes.
Besides being an accomplished photographer — the vibrant pictures in the Rizzoli book are hers — Voloshyna is an educator of all things Eastern European, spreading the word through pop-up dinners, podcasts, cooking classes and lectures. Until the current conflict, she says, many people were ignorant about Ukrainian geography, not knowing it’s the second-largest country in Europe, or the chronology of previous invasions. 
On Nov. 16, Anna Voloshyna will host two Ukrainian borshch and pampushki community dinners ($18) and offer one takeout menu at 18 Reasons. 3674 18th St., San Francisco. 18reasons.org
 
Unlike the Bay Area, Ukraine’s four seasons are distinct and extreme. In order to survive brutal winters, home cooks rely on preservation and fermentation. On a frigid day, hot borshch is comforting; on a summery day, the chilled, vegetable-rich version refreshes with its layers of crunchy radishes, cucumbers and green onions. 
Borshch is one of the most famous, integral dishes in Ukrainian cuisine, according to Voloshyna, and “Budmo!” features three recipes representing different styles. Some boast unexpected additions such as a red, vegetarian borshch creatively flavored with prunes for sweetness and chanterelle mushrooms for earthiness. Backyard gardens are common in Ukraine, and both her grandmother and mother-in-law grow sorrel, which dominates the deep green borshch. 
For garnish, she writes: “Sour cream and dill on everything is our family motto.” She refers to sour cream as a “must-have ingredient” although topping cold borshch with a dollop of lighter yogurt is also acceptable.
In San Francisco, she serves bright, healthy soups with garlicky, oven-warm rolls called pampushky or toasted slices of dense Lithuanian rye. One hearty bowl can be an entire meal. In many Ukrainian households, she explains, borshch is eaten weekly as a first course followed by a meaty stew, cabbage rolls or varenyky (dumplings).
She and her husband, who came to California in 2011, moved from Menlo Park to the Design District in San Francisco a week before the pandemic began. She especially enjoys the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and incorporating local produce into Ukrainian dishes. She said the experience of writing a cookbook — filling the pages with beautiful plates poised on delicate fabrics and traditional scarves called khustyna — was so positive that she’s already penning proposals for a second.
“Budmo! Recipes From a Ukrainian Kitchen” by Anna Voloshyna.
She includes some Russian recipes, like savory pelmeni, in the book but wouldn’t necessarily do so again. “Honestly, at this point everything associated with Russia is very painful for me,” she said. “Maybe I’d remove some of those recipes. It’s very painful to talk about that culture when they’re trying to erase ours.” 
When the Russian army occupied her hometown of Snihurivka in southern Ukraine, her extended family fled to Odesa. If Voloshyna were to go there today, the arduous journey would involve flying to Poland and taking two buses. Technically she and her husband could go, but he would not be allowed to leave because men 60 years and under must serve in the military.
Her mother came to San Francisco before the war began for five fun months of cooking and entertaining. Customary Ukrainian hospitality means when friends come to your home, the table is set, food is offered and the shared toast is “budmo!” — “Let us be!”
Lisa Amand is a Bay Area freelance writer. Email: [email protected]
 

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