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A Secret. Stories of a Jewish Father, part 3

A tale of culinary secrets that make borsch taste better.

My father and I went to the seaside. On the first day we were sitting on the beach. We were both as white as dumplings.

“The main thing is not to get sunburnt straight away,” he says, and puts some sunscreen on my skin. Then he puts some on himself and says:

“Do you want an apple?”

“No,” I say. “The sand’s so hot! I can’t stand still.”

“Yes,” he nods. “You could make Turkish coffee in it.”

“What’s Turkish coffee?”

“It’s made in the sand,” he replies. “That’s the way they do it in Turkey.”

“Just coffee?” I ask.

“What do you mean, just coffee?”

“Do they only make coffee in the sand?”

“What else?”

“You could cook an omelet, for example. I always have a good appetite at the beach.”

“You also have a good appetite,” he comments. “Not just at the beach.”

“Especially at the beach,” I say. “After you go for a swim and lie in the sun you feel hungry, and you could take out an egg, put it in the sand and wait for it to cook. You could even have time to swim while you wait. Why don’t we try it tomorrow?” I suggest.

“All right,” he agrees. “We could also take potatoes with us, wrap them in tinfoil and bury them in the song – they should be ready by dinner time.”

“Excellent!” I say. “So for breakfast we’ll have Turkish coffee, and Turkish eggs for lunch. And for dinner we’ll have Turkish potatoes.”

“Actually...” my father thinks. “If we buy a pot, we could also make borsch. It’s not much of a dinner without soup.”

“Great!” I say. “So we can spend all day at the beach, and also save money! If we make everything ourselves in the Turkish way.”

“That’s right!” my father agrees. “If we buy the food at the market, and not at a café, it will be much cheap. And we don’t have to leave the beach.”

“That’s just what I’m saying! We need to make a list of what we’ll make in the Turkish style before we go to the market. And we shouldn’t’t forget to buy salt.”

“Why do we need salt?” he asks. “We’ve got saltwater right here in the sea.”

“How do we get salt from the sea?” I ask in surprise.

“We don’t have to do anything!” he snorts. “You go for a swim, and your hair dries in the sun: the water evaporates, and the salt remains.”

“In my hair?”

“That’s right!”

“So I shake my head over the borsch?”

“You can just ruffle it with your hand,” he shows me. “It’s very convenient when you always have salt with you. I never buy salt when I’m at the seaside. What’s the point? It’s just a waste of money.”

“What if we want to add pepper?” I ask. “Then what do we do?”

“You can add pepper at home,” he replies. “It’s not essential at the seaside.”

“I’ve got an idea!” I exclaim. “We can take salt water right out of the sea, to cook the borshch!”

“I don’t know about that, What if there’s a jellyfish in it or something?”

“Then we’ll have borsch with a jellyfish!” I reply. “Maybe it will taste even better!”

“Yes…” he says wistfully. “We’ll have our own culinary secret. But don’t tell anyone! No one can know what we add to the borsch to make it taste better.”

“No, I won’t tell anyone!” I promise.

“OK,” he says. “If you don’t want an apple now, we can bake it in the Turkish style. You like baked apples, don’t you?”

“Never mind,” I say. “We’ve got so much to cook in the sand that I can eat a raw apple.”

I take the apple from my father, and I bite almost half of it off with a crunch, squinting from the bright sun, and I look into the distance, into the barely distinguishable margin between the dark blue sea and the bright blue sky.

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