"No bowl of borscht” appears to possibly have been a short-lived New York City variant of “not chopped liver.”
A Southern variation of the same idea would be to compare something to “peanuts”—a common food.
Borscht or borshch (Russian and Ukrainian: борщ, Polish: barszcz, Lithuanian: barščiai, Romanian: borș) is a vegetable soup from Eastern Europe. It is traditionally made with beetroot as a main ingredient which gives it a strong red color. Other, non-beet varieties also exist, such as the tomato paste-based orange borscht and the green (zelioni) borscht (sorrel soup).
The soup is part of the local culinary heritage of many Eastern and Central European nations. The Ukrainian and Russian name is borshch (борщ). It is also a staple dish in Eastern Europe, and made its way into United States cuisine and English vernacular by way of Jewish immigrants (as well as other Eastern Europeans) with the spelling borsht; the Yiddish word for the soup is “בורשט” (borscht). Alternative spellings are borshch and borsch.
4 November 1961, Washington (DC) Post, “Son-in-Law Insists K Preserves Marxist Purity in Travels Abroad” by Murrey Marder, pg. A8:
Take it from Nikita Khrushchev’s son-in-law: facing up to capitalists on their own opulent hunting grounds is, to quote an old New York saying, no bowl of borsch.
Google Groups: rec.food.cooking
Worst National Cuisine
What’s your vote for worst national cuisine. I say England. My cousin’s girlfriend insisted on inviting us over for a “traditional” English dinner. Boiled beef, cabbage, parsnips and taters. Yum! Yum! My hubby disagrees and says the Russians win hands down. And that’s no bowl of borscht!
22 December 2008, The Mirror (UK):
Growing up Jewish in Ukraine was no bowl of borscht, says Mila Kunis.