July 01, 1995

Shchi soup: a not so invisible hand in history

Shchi soup: a not so invisible hand in history
Cabbage Soup. Liliya  Kandrashevich | Dreamstime.com

For many centuries, shchi soup has been a staple of Russian cuisine. There is evidence that shchi was known in Rus long before the adoption of Christianity in 988 A.D. As a matter of fact, in olden times the word “shchi " was used to describe practically all liquid food, and only later did it come to mean cabbage soup specifically.

Shchi has made its presence felt throughout Russia’s history, according to retired chef Nikolai Surkov, an expert on the subject. For example, one of the Russian chronicles mentions that the brutal Tatar Mongol conqueror Khan Baty declined to sack and burn a small Russian village for the sole reason that its residents had presented him with a small pot of shchi, which he liked very much.

Tsar Ivan the Terrible, too, liked the pottage. But he was not averse to using it in peculiar ways. Once he flew into a rage and poured a plateful of hot shchi on a boyar’s head.

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