What is borsch? What is symbolically significant about this being Zaroff's meal when readers first meet him?
Borsch is a Ukrainian beet soup often with sausage, potatoes, onions, and cabbage in it. The beets give it a blood red appearance. The significance of General Zaroff eating it when he and Rainsford first meet is that it is symbolic of his blood-thirstiness. He kills for sport, and now that hunting animals is no longer a big enough challenge for him, he hunts men. Before Rainsford arrives, no man has escaped Zaroff even though he says he gives them a "fair chance" in this game he plays where hunters become the hunted. Rainsford has no idea at this point in the story that Zaroff has a taste for blood, and that he is supposed to be the next victim.