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Jewish Recipes --> Jewish and Israeli Foods --> Jewish Soup

Jewish Soups -- also see: Jewish Soups Recipes

Soup for the Soul

A simple definition of soup is:

"Soup is a food that is made by combining ingredients, such as meat and vegetables with stock, juice, water or another liquid. Hot soups are additionally characterized by boiling solid ingredients in liquids until the flavor is extracted, forming a broth.

Traditionally, soups are classified into two broad groups: clear soups and thick soups. The established French classifications of clear soups are bouillon and consommé. Thick soups are classified depending upon the type of thickening agent used: purées are vegetable soups thickened with starch; bisques are made from puréed shellfish or vegetables thickened with cream; cream soups may be thickened with béchamel sauce; and veloutés are thickened with eggs, butter and cream. Other ingredients commonly used to thicken soups and broths include rice, flour and grains."

And that is all. That definition doesn't really 'fill you up,' does it? It doesn't say anything about the deeper meaning of soup: it leaves us unsatiated and empty, wanting much more. For we know in our hearts that soup is a most special, almost primordial food.

Soup has been a human mainstay from time immemorial. One of the earliest records of soup date from 6000 B.C.E. The great sage and physician Maimonides in the 12th century wrote about the beneficial medicinal properties of chicken soup, in his medical treatise "On the Cause of Symptoms." For centuries, chicken soup--either with kneidlach, the traditional Jewish dumpling made from ground matzah (matzah meal), schmaltz (chicken fat), oil and eggs, or kreplach, that luscious Jewish dumpling filled with ground meat or potato--has been a Jewish staple at the Shabbat and holiday table for centuries. But no matter what kind of soup it be--whether chicken, fish, or a hearty vegetable soup--soup is symbolic of home, hearth, warmth and nurturing.

How can we describe what soup really means for us? Well, let's take, for example, what we as parents want to say to our children about life. Don't we want the best for them? We want them to be healthy and happy; we want to nurture them so that they may grow into responsible, good, moral adults who have eternal values.

Just as soup 'fills us full' with nourishment and warmth, we want our children to lead meaningful, fulfilling lives. And this is what soup really is--a very special food. It evokes long-lasting values and deep relationships.

It played a central role in the Torah story of the two brothers, Yaakov and Esav, as "nezid adashim" (Genesis 25:34)- the famous lentil stew-which Yitzchak's son Yaakov cooked when his brother Esav was returning from his wild, idolatrous and idle ways in the fields, and from his animal hunting.

Esav had no interest in eternal values and deep relationships--only in immediate physical gratification--and so he sold his Birthright to Yaakov for that bowl of soup and just chugged it down, as it says in the Torah, in Genesis 25:30, "hal'iteni na min ha-adom ha-adom hazeh"-or, 'pour this red-red thing down [my throat]!' The family Birthright, which meant responsibility, morality and mature leadership--in essence, the family's future--didn't matter; only the immediate satisfying of his hunger. Like an animal who can't wait until next week to eat, but needs to constantly be satisfying its physical needs in the here and now, Esav self-indulged and lived in the moment.

The great Torah Commentator, Rashi, says that Esav's grandfather Avraham died on that day, so that he should not see his grandson veer off the path of righteousness, into evil ways.

In today's modern world, we are obsessed with immediate gratification, with 'speed.' Everything needs to be fast: computers need to be ever-faster, accessing and disseminating information at the speed of light. Cars are faster. Work is faster: you have to get those projects out FAST, because Time is Money. Life is speeding by us: even food is faster!

The proliferation of fast food eateries attest to this. If you don't keep kosher, you could go to Wendy's, McDonald's, Burger King, Arby's, Chapotle, Subway (-but there now are kosher Subways in several cities) and 'grab' a meal on the run. And the obsession with 'fast' has migrated into the kitchen: people now have in their homes the most modern, electronic kitchens, with appliances to do everything for them. Many of us have in our kitchens refrigerators, electric or gas stoves and self-cleaning ovens. But many more also have microwave ovens which cook foods in mere minutes, and electric dishwashers, electric food processors, coffee makers, mixers, toaster ovens, rice cookers and blenders, to make food preparations ever faster--and some also have electric coffee grinders, slow cookers, deep fryers, freezers, steamers, popcorn poppers--right down to electric can openers and electric apple and potato peelers!

Now, let's think back a few years. What did our great-grandmother have in her kitchen? Probably just a wood burning or coal stove, an ice box and an iron skillet and pot or two for fleishig and a second one for milchigs. But what a difference! Whereas out of our modern-day all-electronic twenty-first century kitchens comes a microwave pizza, our great-grandmother's kitchen, with its sparsity and bare essentials, produced nourishing, wholesome foods, wonderful, multi-course nurturing meals, from homemade breads and morning pancakes to dinners of roasted meats and chickens, vegetable sides and savory soups. We are missing something today, in our modern fast world. We are missing the warm, nurturing connection of our roots, of our great-grandmother's kitchen, to guide us through life.

Soup harks back to this relationship. The relationship of a mother and child; a mother, giving sustenance to her newborn child by nursing him or her with warm mother's milk. This food called "soup," evokes deep, internal feelings, of love, focused attention, and security. It reminds us of the first physical relationship we have after being born on Earth and, because we were created in the spiritual image of G-d as written in the Torah ("b'tzelem Elokim"), this food is a kind of 'bridge' between the physical and spiritual worlds. Soup is a spiritual, as well as physical phenomenon, because it warms our hearts and reminds us from whence we came.

Just as bread is considered the "staff of life," soup connects us with our relationship with G-d.

Sept 2005 - 2014 - Kosher Recipes - Kosher Cooking - Jewish Cooking - Jewish Recipes - Jewish Foods - Kosher Recipes