The air is crisp, this kitchen is warm, and our space within both… is tight. My girls and I maneuver around each other. Arms and legs, fingers and elbows, tops and bottoms. Our dance is not yet perfected.
Soup boils and I breathe it in–chicken and broth, carrots and celery, dill and freshly cracked pepper–they are part of my story. What I make by heart, and am humbled to know that generations of Jewish women make in the same way, I am about to share with my young daughters.
Open windows inhaled bright Jerusalem air and exhaled my Grandmother’s recipes. Her round frame and full personality filled the galley kitchen from cold white tile to low beamed ceiling.
My saba stood by her side. His knobby fingers finely shredding, mincing, and dicing a whole chicken, vegetables from the shuk (market), and spices still muddied at the roots. The matted greens from parsley and dill passed from his fingers onto hers and only then into the soup.
I’d dice carrots at the small plastic table behind them, trying to mirror their technique, staying within the shadows of their duet.
Years later, I made matzo ball soup in my ima‘s kitchen. We each had our own space there. In front of us, endless tile countertops glistened in California sunshine. And below us, perfectly placed wooden floors warmed golden. We chopped and added and measured and poured our ingredients. A Manischewitz mix, drumstick packages, and vegetables and herbs from the supermarket. Celery, carrots and anise, dill, parsley and salt filled my splayed fingers. I smelled each one with my eyes closed.
My daughters hate matzo ball soup.
I make it when I feel cold or sad or lonesome or in dire need of cozy. My recipe is an equal blend of my safta‘s and my ima‘s. Fresh ingredients pulled at their roots mixed with the convenience of where we live, and who we are.
They wrinkle their tiny noses as the smell warms our home and plants my feet into the places where other women dice and chop and measure and pour and end up with the same result in their bowl.
Sometimes, it’s just what I need.
My girls, however, swoon for chicken noodle soup. It is their version of familiar and comforting and cozy. This doesn’t bother me in the least. Because together we measure and mix, wait for the ingredients to set, and roll matzoh balls. Our fingers are sticky, matching.
We maneuver and laugh and talk and throw, knowing that I’ll be the only one filling my bowl. This is our routine. And as we memorize our steps, the scent of broth and the sound of boiling water and the feel of dill between their fingers will become ingrained within the beatings of their hearts.
They’ll know this part of my story. And in this way, it will be theirs, too.
Matzo Ball Soup
1 box Manischewitz mix- follow matzo ball directions exactly- not a minute less or more in the refrigerator
1 package chicken drumsticks- cooked in broth, then shredded
Fresh carrots, celery, dill, parsley- chopped bite size, and cooked in broth to eat
Fennel- left whole to boil in broth, removed not served to eat
Cracked pepper- to taste