'Cold soup' season is here again

The unseasonably sweltering conditions of late May prompt many thoughts beyond trepidation that if it's 30 degees now, what will the temperature be in mid-July?  

It is not the appearance of the sun, nor of the tulips, nor even of heavily-perspiring men in ill-fitting sandals that signals that summer has finally arrived in Latvia. It is the appearance of a luminous pink soup with a sliced boiled egg floating in the middle like an all-seeing eye with a sprig of dill as its eyelash garnish.

This is "aukstā zupa", whose English translation, the accurate but dully prosaic "cold soup" completely fails to express both the taste and the dominant cultural-culinary significance of this seasonal staple.

Gallons of aukstā zupa, perhaps hundreds of gallons, are being prepared in kitchens and canteens across Latvia as you read this. People are sighing and slurping as their spoons transfer the soup from bowl to mouth and onward down the gullet to the stomach from which it exerts its cooling influence upon the entire body including, curiously, the brain. 

During such precious moments, people often add a few words along the lines of: "It's certainly been a long time since I had cold soup!" or "On a hot day you just can't beat cold soup. It's better than ice cream! By the way, do we have any ice cream?"

Sit back in your deck chair and consider cold soup for a moment. No doubt now you want to try some yourself. Here is how you make it, according to our colleagues on the LSM Latvian language service, who have a modern, healthy recipe. So if it is a departure from your grandma's recipe, blame them, not us. The one change we made was to add dill, which they had inexplicably left out.

Ingredients (3-4 servings)

  • 1 liter of kefir,
  • 1 jar of pickled beets (you can marinate them yourself, here's the recipe)
  • 3-4 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 long cucumber
  • a few radishes
  • chopped spring onions
  • parsley
  • mustard and horseradish (optional)
  • dill

Preparation (easy):

Chop the vegetables, eggs, and greens, mix with kefir and pickled beets. Optionally add mustard, horseradish, salt to taste. Plus dill, of course.

Serve cold and, if it's really hot outside, even chilled!

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