The soup that most people associate with this part of the world is barszcz, or borshch if you want a screwed-up English spelling. The assumption is that this is always a red, beetroot, soup and comes from Russia. Of course, we know that there are in fact two main types, red & white and that the red type originates in………..Poland? According to this interesting, in a passing kind of way, article, red barszcz started out in Ukraine and then spread to all Slavic lands. Would any of our Polish readers disagree with that, I wonder?
Personally, I’m a huge fan of the white stuff which is very similar to a good żurek and in my limited experience comes as the liquid with floating bits of white kielbasa (and possibly egg?). I’m certain the recipe varies from place to place. If I recall correctly, Easter is the main occasion for white barszcz so not long to wait.
As for the red stuff, I can take it or leave it. For me, doing anything to a beetroot other than pickling it is to take it well outside its comfort zone and to heat it up is, well, strange. So this is a difficult country for me when hot beetroot is served up so often either as czerwony barszcz or as a hot vegetable with many meat-based meals. All the more difficult when everyone around me is waxing lyrical about whether the beets served up today are good, bad, indifferent and showing great interest in the recipes. The best thing you can do with red barszcz is to nuke it with as many spices and floaty bits as you can get away with without annoying the barszcz-police such that it becomes as far away from beetroots+water+heat as you can get. I think the sour cream helps a lot but I’ve not often had that served up with it here. It is often served here with uszka, dumplings (more or less), floating in it. Alternatively, you can get a cup of it and drink this while munching on a krokiet, sort of pastry-like thing.
Almost forgot. What is nice, in the summer, is the cold beetroot soup who’s name escapes me in Polish but it begins with “L”, I think? (EDIT – Thanks to Darth – the name is chłodnik – not an L in sight!). Poland’s own gazpacho. I have very little idea how this is made but it uses the green parts of the beet as well as the tuber. It resembles muddy pond water after a herd of buffalo have marched through leaving grassy bits floating around but it tastes really good. Most Poles I know, don’t like it. According to Wiki article linked to above, this is “Mostly Lithuanian”, well, it was all the same commonwealth once upon a time.