Traditions. One tradition that links me to my ancestors involves lighting flames, circling my hands above them, and whispering a prayer. Though I am referring to the kindling of the Sabbath candles, another tradition with the same motions also binds me to generations of Jewish mothers.
It is the act of making soup.
My grandmother was a master at the craft. As a child, we often drove from Chicago to Milwaukee to visit my grandparents. And whatever our arrival time, Grandma's piping hot soup would be waiting for us. Nourishing and rich, her soups were magical bowls of devotion and affection.
I love making soup. When I prepare a pot of simmering soup, I sense my grandmother next to me, nodding approval as I stir, and Great Aunty Dinah in the room with me, whispering "add another onion." The satisfaction of the process of making soup may even surpass the pleasure of the final product. Peeling, chopping, listening to the first sizzle of vegetables hitting the pot, adding water and a bay leaf or two, then waiting as the house fills with the fragrance of love. When the time is right, the seasoning begins. I add a dash of this and a pinch of that. I taste, then pray for Divine inspiration as I consider how to perfect the bubbling potion of nourishment. Next I cover the pot. And I wait.
There is something calming, even grounding about preparing a pot of soup. The worries of the day seem to vanish into the fragrant steam. The children come home and breathe deeply. "What kind of soup today, Mom?" they ask. Each child has a favorite, of course, and the picky ones only sip clear broth no matter which soup it is ("No icky green things, please!"). But they all love soup.
Sometimes I like to picture my sister making soup across the ocean from me. Her mushroom barley soup is infused with garlic, rich and satisfying. Her aromatic chicken soup is something to savor. We both use Grandma's foolproof matza ball recipe, Passover or not. If we are both preparing soup while we're on the phone, there is no distance between us.
On the day that my sister saw a news report about a missile hitting Israel from the Gaza Strip, though she knows that I live nowhere near the southern border, she called immediately.
"Are you all right?"
"Of course. Why?"
"News says Israel was hit," she said.
"We're fine," I assured her. "I'm making soup."
"You're making soup?" she asked. "Thank G-d you're ok."
The very act of soup-making indicated to my sister that at least in my home, it was normal, tranquil.
Last year, when Israel experienced the biggest snowstorm in a century, and over thirty inches of snow fell within a day and a half, knocking out phone lines and causing major problems with the electric grid, my family weathered the storm quite well, thank you.
I made soup!
This past Friday night, as I waved my hands above the flames of my Shabbat candles, I prayed for the safety of my people. I prayed for the families of the two Israelis killed on the northern border. I prayed for the IDF soldiers serving to protect us, and I prayed for the safety of Jews all over the world. I cried as I prayed, beseeching the One Above to protect us from the inexplicable hatred that surrounds our people.
And at the end of my prayer, I dried my tears and gazed at my pot of rich onion soup, warming on the hot plate patiently, waiting for the family to finish the Friday night prayers.
The soup would nourish us, in more ways than one.
Here is my newest soup creation:
Cream of Kohlrabi Soup (dairy or pareve) (serves 8-10 hungry people)
1 large onion
5-6 medium kohlrabi
2 large carrots
1 large zucchini
2 medium potatoes
6 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp black pepper
pinch hot paprika (or hot pepper flakes)
handful of fresh basil, chopped
handful of fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup red wine
2-3 Tbsp oatmeal (rolled oats), if needed
1 container sweet cream (1/2 cup buttermilk may be substituted) (optional)
Peel and chunk vegetables. Sauté for about 10 minutes until soft. Add 10 cups boiling water. Add bay leaves and simmer over low flame for about 45 minutes. Add spices and red wine, and simmer 20 minutes more. Remove bay leaves. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. If soup is too thin, stir in oatmeal and simmer 10 minutes more. Remove from flame. For dairy soup, blend in cream. Serve with croutons.
Savor the process, and enjoy the soup!
Your soup is always wonderful. Love your blog.Comment
great story and yummy recipeComment
Terrific post ! Bravo and b'te'avon! :DComment
This piece is beautiful, just like you, Judy. I can't wait to try your soup recipe.Comment