I love hearing Rufus tell stories about all the amazing foods his mother, Kate McGarrigle, cooked for him. Sadly, she passed away in 2010, so it is bittersweet looking back.
He has been releasing albums at a steady pace, including “Unfollow the Rules” in 2020. He has also written two operas! Rufus entertained us during COVID-19 lockdown with live streams from his house, usually dressed in a bathrobe. I’m still getting used to bearded, middle-aged Rufus; but then, I’m still getting used to middle-aged me as well.
Rufus Wainwright (son of folk singers Louden Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle) is one of the most profoundly talented singer, songwriters, and pianists of our time. I really mean that. The boy is also incredibly funny.
About the interview
Rufus was on tour supporting “Want One” when we had this chat on his tour bus. I was big and pregnant!
Kate McGarrigle’s Borscht
“Now you will understand how the Russians survived Hitler’s 900-day siege of the city of Leningrad! THEY’RE NOT EASILY BEET!” —Kate McGarrigle
- 1 to 2 lbs stewing beef, cut in cubes
- bay leaf
- 5 large beets
- 1/2 rutabega (or turnip)
- 3 carrots
- 1 large onion (chopped)
- 1/4 c. butter
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 1T. vinegar (white or cider)
- 1/2 cabbage (small, preferably red)
- sour cream (to garnish)
- …so you purchase 1 to 2 lbs. of stewing beef, cut in cubes. you put this in a pot, the size of the bottom of a double-boiler, i.e. about 7” in diameter and at least 5” high, filled almost to the top with water. Add a bay leaf and a tablespoon of salt, cover and start cookin’. Simmer for at least 2 hours… until beef is stewed, no longer tough. When beef is ready, start doing the veggies.
- With the grating blade of a food processor, grate 5 big (size of a golden delicious apple) beets… or the equivalent amount in smaller ones… cut off stems and grate. Put into good size soup pot.
- Do the same with about 1/2 medium rutabega (or some turnip)… or the equivalent amount and 3 carrots (you don’t have to peel). Chop up a large onion, put in pot. Turn heat on… and add 1/4 cup butter. Stir to keep stuff from burning… add 1/2 can of tomato paste (you know those little cans about 3” deep). Keep stirring it up… add pepper (freshly ground) to taste.
- After cooking for about 20 minutes, all the time stirring to make sure it doesn’t burn… add the contents of the beef pot. If the water has boiled away, add more, making sure that the “stew” is more soup-like, but not watery. A capful or two of vinegar is good at this point … NOT BALSAMIC: apple, wine, or plain will do. Put lid on and continue cooking, another 20 minutes or so.
- Then cut up, in shred-like fashion, 1/2 of a small cabbage (I use a red cabbage)… add this to the soup. Cook until it all tastes great, another half-hour or so… or 1/2 day.
- To eat, adjust seasoning, i.e. salt and pepper, put in a bowl and add a coupla teaspoons of sour cream to each bowl. Soak up the soup with a loaf of black-Russian bread covered in unsalted butter.