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Saturday Morning at the Beach and Borscht

November 9, 2011 matkonation 1 Comment

By: Danya Weiner

Last Saturday I woke up at six in the morning and looked at the sky. After a stormy night, the white clouds and rays of sun signaled to me that my plans to join a group of men for their breakfast on the beach were still on.  I know it may sound like some weird plans for a married mother of two but there is an interesting story behind it.

A few weeks ago I asked my uncle, Josie, about to tell me all about his “Saturdays on the Beach”. For years now I know my uncle has been meeting with a group of his friends, all men, on the beach in Herzilya every Saturday and having a feast. I decided it was time to see what this was all about.

Twenty eight years ago- yes 28!- a guy named Gideon Ackerstein sat on the beach after a run and had a snack of pickled herring with two of his friends who lived in Herzilya. Gideon knew my uncle from work and he asked him to join along one day, for a shot of vodka and some pickled herring after a run.  They started making it a weekly habit, running and then eating on the beach, and along the years, more and more friends joined them.  The more men that joined, the better the meals post-run got. Each Saturday a different member was responsible for making the food, which always has to include pickled herring and vodka.

This group of men is compiled of men of all backgrounds- an ex-Mossad agent, an engineer, a gynecologist, hairdresser, etc.-that aren’t necessarily friends outside of this Saturday tradition. Two things tie them together- their love for the beach and vodka in the morning.

Last Saturday was Josie’s turn to prepare the meal. Josie is a declared foodie, so in addition to being an anthropologic experience I knew I was getting a culinary one as well.  They started out the meal with the usual, Danish pickled herring, vodka and some crackers. Then came the salads-grilled peppers with feta cheese, potato salad, cold cuts, more vodka, beet salad, fresh bread and more vodka. When suddenly we started to feel the slight patter of rain, Josie served an incredible Borscht soup with Ossbuco that simply hit the spot.

Apparently the rain did nothing for these men, who simply continued on with their Saturday feast at the beach, eating, smoking cigars and enjoying life.

What a life.

Borscht Soup

(Adapted from Joy of Cooking)

Ingredients for 8 servings:

12 oz. beets, washed thoroughly
1 lb. beef chuck, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil

4½ cups water
1 28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
2 medium celery stalks, sliced
1½ teaspoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and fresh ground pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400 Fº. Wrap the beets together in aluminum foil and roast on a baking sheet until they can be easily pierced with a fork, for about one hour. Allow to cool and then peel and slice into thin strips.
  2. Lightly dredge beef in all-purpose flour.  Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium- high heat and add the beef, browning on all sides.
  3. Add the water and tomatoes and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until the meat is almost tender, for about 30 minutes.
  4. Add the cabbage, onion, carrots, celery and tomato paste and stir to combine.
  5. Simmer, partially covered for about 30 minutes, until vegetables and meat are tender.
  6. Stir in beets, red wine vinegar, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and cook, on low heat for an additional 15 minutes before serving.

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