“What's your ethnicity?” asked a haughty American gentleman shortly after I had moved to the States, about six years ago. His question struck me during a brief conversation about our country club's chili cook-off contest of which I had a privilege to be a judge. 

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure how to respond. Up until then I had never thought of myself as ethnic. I come from a country that, just like the U.S., shares Western cultural tradition. Perhaps my interlocutor was curious to know my religion, although our casual chit-chat didn’t seem to go past the mystery of cooking a hearty chili. My mind desperately tried to come up with a precise answer, speeding through all sorts of data.

I am a tall, blond, fair-skinned, green-eyed woman. He couldn’t possibly be asking my skin color because he could see me.

Did I look weird? I have high cheekbones and sparse eyebrows. These, according to my father, I inherited from our Tartar ancestors. But aren't we all a mix of different gene pools?

Aha, I got it. I speak English with a bit of an accent. Which intonation prevailed? Polish, French, Spanish? There is a little Russian in there too. 

Finally, I found the answer was to focus on food. Cuisine distinguishes nations more easily than looks or the melody of someone’s voice. I, for instance, was born in a country where soups rule. There are gentle spring vegetable soups with fresh dill and cold summer soups made of strawberries. Meaty winter season broths will keep you safe from the frostiest frost. Milk soups greet you in the morning. Beet soups put you to bed at night. Yes, I am from a soupland! Am I not?

After the awkward moment of silence, I told the gentleman: “I am Polish”. And I asked him about his favorite foods. I found out he was a big fan of a chicken soup and pickles but never heard of sour pickle soup which is the recipe I've chosen to share here today.