Schav is a traditional Eastern European soup, made in
Russia, Lithuania, Latvia,
and the Ukraine. It’s also served in Ashkenazi Jewish
households, which explains why I was able to get it. My supermarket (Shop Rite) at home has a
section of shelves devoted to upcoming holidays, and schav was nestled in
amongst the other Passover dishes.
My coworkers and close personal friends are probably dumbfounded now, for reasons I’ll explain. Among my eating eccentricities is that I hate hot liquids. When I was a kid, I used to put ice cubes in soup to cool it down before eating. Then after a while I realized, what was the point? To me soup is a waste of time, and ingredients. I’d rather take the food items I like from the soup, dump the stupid broth, and put the tasty ingredients on a regular plate. (I also hate coffee because of its usual temperature AND its taste, as well as hot tea, hot chocolate, and, when I think about it, heat in general, not just for foods and beverages.) Even stews are too close to soup, for me.
After I explain this to new acquaintances and friends, they invariably throw out, “What about cold soups, like gazpaucho?” I usually reply that I would give gazpaucho, or another cold variant, a fair trial, but I’m pessimistic about the chances of my liking them. Which I mean sincerely, but by chance I can’t recall having the opportunity to try one of them. (Obviously any soup could be eaten cold, but I’m referring to soups that are supposed to be eaten cold.) Enter schav. It’s traditionally served either cold or hot, so it enabled me to put my money where my mouth is, as it were.
The schav came in a large glass jar, the same size and shape as that for its shelf neighbor gefilte fish (delicious, see April 6, 2013 post). It had a greenish broth with many green leaves suspended in it. The leaves are the main ingredient, sorrel. Looking at images of this plant on the internet, I realized that sorrel is an incredibly common plant, at least in the
U.S. I’ve seen it during
work on hundreds, if not thousands of occasions. It appears my store-bought schav was kind of
basic—some times other vegetables are in it.
Also, it’s common to put dollops of sour cream in it, as this is
supposed to cut the sour taste of the sorrel.
I didn’t have any sour cream, so I just opened the jar and had at it. The results were disappointing, to say the least. It tasted slightly sour, as advertised, and that was it. It was thin, and very insubstantial. I made sure to eat some of the actual sorrel leaves, and while these had slightly more sourish taste, they still were pretty weak in flavor overall. I can’t say I hated it exactly, since it just tasted like pretty much nothing. It’s apparently the light beer of soups (Zing! Yeah, I went there—see June 19, 2014 post). Looking at the nutritional information, I saw that schav, unsurprisingly, has very few calories (only 20 total for a jar that was 16-20 ounces), but does have some B vitamins and Vitamin C. Since I usually like my foods and drinks to have some significant taste, I can’t recommend schav. I only had a few ounces of it before giving up on it, and my father seconded my opinion of it. Maybe the sour cream makes a huge difference, but I’m not particularly motivated to try schav again.
But, I did learn that there are many soups designed to be eaten cold—I discovered over 20 kinds with just a cursory look, such as che, diyabath, fruit soup, okroshka, and pistou, as well as, of course, gazpaucho. So there are other possible candidates for the coveted position of A Soup That Paul Likes, and I’ll give them a shot if I see them. But, if you’re a betting person, I would definitely wager against any of these being successful.