In my late 30’s I began to reflect on my life growing up with two very strong Russian women as my role models (my mom and my grandma or as I called her, babushka, babi for short) direct descendants form old world Russia. I was working as a full-time traditional retail pharmacist at a local chain at the time and in the midst of questioning my role in the realm of making the difference in improving people’s health. Something I took great pride in and filled my heart to be able to be in a position to make that kind of an impact. Which, after all, was my whole reason for going to pharmacy school.
At this point I had been witness to many things in the medical/pharmacy world that did not settle well with me. Drug recalls (pulling an FDA approved medication off the market/not available for sale). One in particular that made an impact on me was an antibiotic that was taken off the market after it caused over 3,000 deaths (many of which were children). The unavailability of Coumadin 5mg (brand name blood thinner at the most commonly prescribed dose) which we as pharmacists had to call the patients doctors and have them re-write the prescription until it was available once again. The list went on. The many incidents left me feeling like there had to be another way, an ability to safe-guard the public better. I wasn’t quite sure what, but I felt like there was another approach, one which was more in-tune with what I envisioned my role to be in “Saving Lives” (a statement that I used to chuckle at when I was a teenager as one of the pharmacists would say that to our customers. I would think, “well that is quite a bold statement to make”.) Now here I was searching for a safer more consistent healing approach.
I began recalling different home remedies that my mom and babushka would use. (When this is part of your daily life, of course, it doesn’t stand out right away.) One thing I remembered was my mom going out in the back yard and picking broad leaf plantain leaves (In Russian Podoroshnik = “by/on the path/road”) and applying them to my babushka’s forearm and wrapping it in a bandage to treat a black fly bite that had caused her arm to swell. It worked! (Plantain Formulas) Another memory was my babushka using active yeast and sugar with the sour cherries from our tree in the back yard and leaving it outside in a lightly covered, breathable mesh covering the mouth of a glass bottle on the screened-in porch during the late summer months. That memory came rushing the first time I opened a bottle of Kombucha. The fermented smell brought me right back. My family and I grew up eating borscht, not only the beet version (red borscht, high in fiber, Vitamin B & C, great for liver, heart and digestive system as well as your circulatory system) but also the green (Shchaveloviy) borscht (high in vitamin A & C, riboflavin and great for the eyes, heart). The green borscht main ingredient sorrel (shchavel), grew wild in the back yard and my mom and Babushka would pick that giving this version a tangy lemony taste. It would be served with a cut-up hard boiled egg, some fresh dill and a squeeze of lemon. Delicious! We also had apple trees, pear trees, peach tree, grapes, raspberries, strawberries, white and red currant bushes (made some amazing preserves), multiple flower gardens as well as a full vegetable garden in our backyard. My mom counted every penny, we were not exactly wealthy. But oh the abundance of true medicine and love in our kitchen, what I consider the real pharmacy or “apothecary” for my practice today. Something that I hope to evolve into today’s “modern apothecary” where I could help serve as the bridge between the medical world and contribute the teachings of natural medicine to the up and coming pharmacists of our future.
I have included the recipes for the two soups mentioned above. Always cook with love in your heart and please share with your family, friends and loved ones. For when you cook with love, you enhance the life-force of that food so it can nourish your body, mind and soul. I will leave you with something I remember my babushka would say,Preeyatnava Apeeteeta! Bon Apetit, Enjoy!
Traditional Beet Borscht
4 cups vegetable broth
1 small potato peeled and quartered
2 cloves minced garlic
2 cups grated carrots
2 cups grated beets
2 cups shredded cabbage
2 large Bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried basil (or use 6 leaves of fresh basil)
Himalayan sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 large can/container stewed tomatoes and juice
1/4 cup olive oil
fresh dill and sour cream (or vegan version sour cream)
Pour 4 cups of vegetable broth in saucepan. Add potato, garlic, bay leaves and dried basil simmer until potatoes are tender. Add carrots, beets and cabbage stir together and simmer until tender. Add the container of stewed tomatoes (if you can get your hands on any home-made canned tomatoes OR sauce please use that!) and simmer for 15 minutes. Add olive oil, himalayan sea salt and black pepper to taste. Pour into individual bowls garnish with 1 tsp of fresh dill and a tablespoonful of sour cream. Serve and enjoy!
Green (Shchaveloviy) Borscht
8 cups vegetable broth
3 medium potatoes peeled and cubed
3/4 cup chopped leeks
3 cloves minced fresh garlic
2 Bay leaves
1 cup loosely packed lightly chopped Fresh Parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
3 large handfuls of Sorrel chopped
Himalayan Sea salt and pepper to taste
Hard boiled eggs peeled and cubed
Fresh Dill & Parsley
In a large saucepan saute leeks, garlic, bay leaves and parsley in 1/4 cup of olive oil until leeks are slightly transparent. Add vegetable broth and cubed potatoes to the pan, cover and simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes. Add chopped sorrel and 1/4 cup olive oil as well as salt and pepper to taste and simmer covered for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 to 1 whole lemon and stir together. Pour into individual bowls and serve with cubed hard boiled egg and a tablespoon combination of fresh dill and parsley.