Victoria Revenko remembers when she moved to North Texas with her Ukrainian husband and found a dearth of the Eastern European specialties she dreamed of. Yes there was Russian Banya in Carrolton, a sauna with a restaurant, Volga, which served a scatter (like a Soviet compilation) of Georgian, Ukrainian and Russian dishes. And A taste of Europe in Arlington with a beautiful honey cake and tables covered in red and white tiles. In Southlake’s Polish deli called European in Texas, sausages line a crate. But as an expat from Zaporizhia, eastern Ukraine, who had been an exchange student in her youth here, she couldn’t find enough of the one thing that attracted her more than anything else, like a lodestar.
Specifically, what she was looking for was heartwarming borscht and pierogis, but she kept coming back with empty fists. And so Revenko took matters into his own hands. This is how she became the queen of borscht in our city.
Initially, she and her husband Oleksii (who passes by Alex in Texas) set up a stall and served borscht at the Dallas Farmers Market, and for a glorious moment last spring we were able to find it in paper bowls with a spoonful of sour cream. and fresh dill alongside hand-shaped street food style pierogi that enveloped cheese and potatoes. (The soup was vegan, so anyone could join in, for maximum borscht fun.) But the pandemic struck, and with it the soup ladle was gone. How could they continue to share their national treasure? they wondered. They landed on the idea of ââdehydrating it into a staple under the name Cooking borscht.
For Victoria, borscht is the blood of life, elementary.
Yet not everyone has such a deep story. Oleksii comes from a family of borscht recipe collectors, especially his father. Wherever he traveled – through Ukraine, Russia and the Baltic countries – his father amassed varieties, like a Borscht culinary ethnographer. He asked people for their treasures and wrote them down, eventually collecting over 1,500 recipes. This cache fueled a blog that Victoria and her husband kept as a passionate project.
The reason the Revenkos chose Dallas in 2017 when they left conflict-torn eastern Ukraine was simple: âOur city is pretty close to the front lines. And we didn’t know. The future is not clear: âWe were uprooting. So it doesn’t matter if it’s 20 miles or 20,000, âsays Victoria. They brought their love of borscht with them. For Victoria, it’s endless.
There are the classic red borscht, which are so well known, an icon of beety soup. But also the white borscht and the green peppers of a summer borscht made with less potatoes, lighter and served chilled. There’s the borscht sauerkraut (Victoria’s favorite) made with cabbage stored for the winter; mushroom borscht from the wooded and mountainous western Ukraine; and a light borscht fish with tiny smelts and beans from the Black Sea region where Oleksii’s grandmother lives. Some borscht is tangy with sorrel, while others are served hearty with sausage or smoked meats – a whole world in addition to the standard beetroot variety.
âFor every Ukrainian, borscht is more than soup, it’s more than a comfort food,â says Victoria. âIt’s the feeling of being at home. It’s that feeling when you’re at the bus stop and it’s cold and [you think of coming home to] this bowl which is very hot with sour cream. It’s more than tasty food. It’s a ritual. This is what she wanted to share.
At home, you can simmer and dream of spring, summer, autumn, winter in Ukraine. If you want to follow Victoria’s lead, eat it with dried pork and a piece of sweet onion.
Usually it takes hours to prepare, says Revenko, simmering the bone broth until rich and thick, peeling and chopping six or seven vegetables and cooking them separately in a process. complex in several stages. She wanted to get the job done for the clients.
To make the dehydrated soup kits, they buy local produce, cut it, portion it, dehydrate it, and pack it themselves. For the packaging, “we wanted the container to convey Ukrainian culture,” says Revenko. They therefore commissioned a Ukrainian artist specializing in Petrykivka, a style of folk art that has been declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO – the whorls of stylized floral and animal motifs intermingle.
Each flower on the glass jars or boxes has a meaning – red flowers for the classic beetroot soup, green for the bell pepper version, yellow for the summer soup.
All of this is the legacy they wanted to celebrate.