Have Borscht, Will Travel 

As we all know, the Jews have a deep connection to food. All of our holidays revolve around what we eat, what we don’t eat when we eat, how we make the food we eat, etc., etc., etc.

We go to a bris and are served brunch.

We go to a bar mitzvah and get a smorgasbord, food stations, or passed hors d’oeuvres. 

Weddings – don’t get me started. 

And When a Jew dies, we don’t send flowers – we send or bring food. 

Years ago when my parents first came to visit me in the Twin Cities, they stumbled upon the Crossroads Deli. I’m certain my dad saw the word deli and thought he had hit paydirt. A very observant (like he paid attention, not religious) man, my dad clearly never gave thought as to why I was schlepping pastrami, bagels, and rainbow cookies back to Minnesota every time I came to visit. 

At the Crossroads Deli, he seemed to get his fix – even though he had just left the place where the delis are. My dad has lived his entire 83-plus years in Brooklyn and Queens. The man knows what a deli is and what it isn’t. So what was the draw? Why would he INSIST on at least one (and sometimes more) trip to the Crossroads Deli each and every time he came to visit?

Well, there was one thing that stood out above all others. My dad would fly into MSP and drive straight to Crossroads to get this one thing before seeing his grandkids (or me). 

What is this one thing? Well, if you know, you know: Dr. Stu’s Cabbage Borscht. 

For those who don’t know, Dr. Stu Borken is a retired doctor here in the Twin Cities who years ago, graciously gave his family’s recipe to Crossroads. I’ve actually had the pleasure of talking deli with the good doctor on several occasions over the years. Our passions are clearly aligned. 

The soup is always delicious. There is no doubt about that. But I’ve always asked my dad why he hasn’t found a similar one in all of New York City. There are delis and Russian restaurants and I’m sure a bowl of cabbage borscht could be found less than 1,100 miles away. For whatever reason, he saved and savored the Dr. Stu experience for his trips to Minneapolis. 

I’m writing this from seat 6C on yet another flight back home to New York – my 8th in the last 9 months. And above me, carefully packaged and sufficiently frozen are 5 quarts of Dr. Stu’s borscht. Sadly, my dad’s flying days appear to be over, so instead of pulling off at Cedar Lake Road after seeing the Crossroads Deli sign, he’ll have to settle for a delivery from me. 

These days, when my dad isn’t doing well, I won’t hear directly from him. But when he’s feeling ok and his spirits are up, I’ll get a few long texts in the morning. They usually start out with a bit of a health report and some self-diagnosis. Then they go into the questions about his three Minnesota grandchildren and what they’re up to that week. He might throw in something about his three New York grandchildren so I’m kept up to speed. And then, inevitably he starts talking about the soup. 

The reverence my dad has for this soup is remarkable. He tells me he dreams of it. 

He might start texting me soon after I leave him, forgetting that I just filled his freezer with 5 or 6 quarts of the stuff. Over the course of the few days, I’ll be back home in Queens, I’m fairly certain he’ll ask me several times to bring him some the next time I come – which is in 2 weeks. I might get a semi-frantic text that he’s out of the soup and that I should ship some to him. I’ll remind him to ask my mom if there are any left in the freezer. Usually, that averts the crisis. 

I know that my dad’s body and mind are both failing him. I know that for the foreseeable future, I’ll have the same conversation with the TSA agents at MSP every time I fly. Yeah, I’m the weird guy with a suitcase filled with frozen soup. And I know that for a moment each trip my dad will be happy and excited and appreciative and relieved that a new supply of soup has arrived. 

So thank you Crossroads Deli for accepting that recipe from one of your customers and making sure I can always have some of that magical soup to schlep to New York. And thank you Dr. Stu – after seeing countless patients and writing countless prescriptions over the decades, it was your soup recipe that was the best medicine of all.

UPDATE: My dad stayed up past his normal bedtime to wait for me to arrive. I walked into the house and gave my dad a hug. He whispered in my ear: “I hope you brought the cargo.”

PS: Anyone care to guess what comes back to Minneapolis in that suitcase?