A Beach, a Babushka, and Borscht

by Kat Slootsky

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been visiting the boardwalk on Brighton Beach. I grew up near there, in Sheepshead Bay, and have had many occasions to spend time with my grandmother, who lives by the water.

Year after year, the boardwalk’s aging planks are replaced. Its identity, despite the repairs, has remained unchanged — a Boardwalk of Theseus, you might say. A few years ago, though, the city announced plans to modernize the boardwalk by replacing the wood with sand-colored cement. It’s a superficial change, but the proposal was met with grousing by many neighborhood residents. Such is the local commitment to the beach’s particular atmosphere.

On a recent weekend, I paid a visit, strolling along the water, enjoying a lunch with my babushka, and taking in the quiet beauty of the shoreside neighborhood.

On the weekends, families stroll up and down the boardwalk. It’s airy, open, and often empty of people.

Couples sit together looking out at the waves.

During the off-season, cyclists can ride freely on the boardwalk. (A few sneak in rides at other times, naturally.)

An apartment tower rises near the shoreline.

Four friends share a drink at one of the restaurants by the water.

The new concrete boardwalk, which by design apes the diagonal pattern of the wooden planks it replaced.

An elderly couple stopped for a portrait, pleased to be photographed.

A smoke break.

A waiter from the restaurant Tatiana beckoned my grandmother and me. Over the years, Tatiana has expanded, securing ownership of all of the restaurants along the boardwalk — except for one, Volna. We favored the underdog, and headed to Volna for dinner.

I treated my grandmother to dinner, wanting to give her a break and take her out for a traditional Brighton Beach meal.

To start: a bowl of borscht, with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkled dill, alongside a plate of herring with chopped onions, olives, and parsley. Nearby sat a plate of crepes, served with a bowl of red caviar.

Our lunch spread. At the bottom of the table is a plate of pelmeni — Russian dumplings, resting in butter. Above it: herring with onions, olives, and parsley. It all made for a deliciously satisfying conclusion.

Kat Slootsky is a freelance photographer. Her work has appeared on DossierJournal.com and Bullett Media. A native of Brooklyn, she was raised in Sheepshead Bay.

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