I Hate Borsch!

I Hate Borsch!
Yevgenia Nayberg
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

The young narrator of this picture book loathes her family’s and fellow Ukranians’ favourite food, borsch; despite it being considered a national delicacy . In a cleverly bringing together of the ingredients 

and the process of making this supposed culinary treat, the girl puts her case for being anti-borsch. The stuff even invades her imaginings giving her daydreams of being marooned on a deserted island of sour cream in a red sea of borsch whereon dill floats wherever she looks. Sunflowers too grow profusely in Ukraine, so why not instead have sunflower borsch she pleads, only to receive a resounding NO! 

Every single grandma in Kiev, we read, has the one ‘true’ borsch recipe so inevitably when the girl narrator and her family move to America, you can imagine what she receives as a farewell present from each grandmother. Once in the new country however she finds this dreaded foodstuff has gone there before her – although both its name spelling and taste are different – further reasons to detest this red sludgy stuff. Or maybe not entirely. 

For after a surfeit of American cuisine and the passing of time our narrator – having rediscovered the old family recipes – finds an old friend: borsch. Anybody fancy a bowl of the Ukrainian staple?

Yes this tale, based on the author’s own experiences might at first appear to be about hating a specific food as a child; however beneath the surface are themes of how food is embedded in cultural expression, holding on to one’s cultural identity as an immigrant, and better appreciating the past as you grow up. The bold, mixed media illustrations are both arresting and imbued with a sense of nostalgia and there’s even a borsch recipe at the end of the story.

With the on-going Russian invasion of Ukraine forcing so many Ukrainians from their homeland to safety in other countries including the UK, this book will be especially welcome in schools, both to celebrate the Ukranian culture and the enduring strength of Ukranian people.

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