“National identity”. How a soup sparked international controversy

Is it possible for a cooking recipe to cause an international conflict? As for the origins of the traditional Eastern European soup borscht, and claims come from Ukraine and Russia, the dispute is real.

However, the problem is not in the implementation of the recipe, the main ingredients are cabbage and beetroot, but in the fact that Russians consider it part of their national cuisine. Ukrainians, however, disagree.

At the beginning of this story is the famous Kyiv chef Yevgeny Klopotenko. In addition to being a culinary expert, TV presenter and entrepreneur, he is behind the social project “Cult Food”, founded the Kyiv restaurant “One Hundred Years Ahead” and is the founder of the culinary site klopotenko.com that bears his name. .

Along with all this, a year ago Kloptenko founded the public organization “Institute of Ukrainian Culture”. Its goal is to make borchas recognized all over the world as a traditional Ukrainian dish. As a first step in this direction, the soup has already been declared a cultural heritage of the country by the local authorities.

It’s not food, it’s national identity.

Now it is about to enter UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage, where, for example, French gastronomy, Neapolitan pizza and Georgian wine are already there. In November last year, Klopotenko’s team managed to convince the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine to make an official request by March. If this happens, the application for inclusion in the UNESCO list will be considered at the end of this year.

“All Ukrainians are different, but we are united by our love of violence. And let the world know who it belongs to,” commented Klopotenko to Free Europe.

According to him, the first mention of this recipe was received on the territory of Ukraine, but this soup was not officially considered Ukrainian: “Every Ukrainian cooks it and eats it, but in the legislative branch it is not Ukrainian. We didn’t think it should be documented.”

Yevgeny Klopotenko

Kloptenko specifies that the problem is not in the execution of the recipe, but in the fact that in many places around the world borscht is presented as a traditional Russian dish.

“We eat pizza with you, but we don’t say it’s a Ukrainian or Bulgarian dish. Anyone can cook borscht, but it’s a Ukrainian national dish. For Ukrainians, borscht is more than a dish. Borsch is part of Ukrainian identity and our national value. A powerful cultural phenomenon and the answer to the question: what unites Ukrainians”.

A powerful cultural phenomenon and the answer to the question – what unites Ukrainians.

However, the Russian government defines borsha as “one of the most popular and beloved Russian dishes and a symbol of traditional cuisine” on its official Twitter account.

Yevgeny Klopotenko not only disagrees with this statement, but goes further, that both Ukrainian and Russian national cuisines were actually destroyed in the Soviet Union for political reasons.

“90% of the dishes that we consider Ukrainian were actually born in the USSR. To form a nation, in this case the ‘Soviet people’, you have to give it a language, a food and a clothing. These are three things that are necessary for a nation to develop in one direction. Different nations in a country , if there are different cultures, different traditions, these people are very difficult to manage,” says the chef from Kiev.

According to him, this uniformity during the communist regime was created through state regulations: “First of all, it is a method of banning products that people are used to consuming. When the delivery of certain products and goods stopped and something completely different appeared on the store shelves, and the choice was not great, new dishes began to appear.

Now Yevgeny Klopotenko has set himself the task of reviving the Ukrainian national cuisine. Therefore, he first decided to start recognizing the borcha internationally as a traditional dish of his homeland.

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