Mama’s Soup & Stuffed Helzl

There was soup almost every day in our New Jersey farmhouse, located some 60 miles from Brooklyn.  That was because we had a chicken farm of White Leghorns—the breed known for its egg-laying ability. 

Mama said, “Ibergevaremte zup hot a besern tam” (Reheated soup tastes better), but we never had the same soup two days in a row. 

Since Papa was “a meat and potatoes man,” the soups had to be hearty.  With soups other than the chicken soup and the borsht you never have enough broth to dip your bread. 

This was a problem for the hired hand who always ate with us.  He was a huge bald man with palms the size of ping-pong paddles.  His name was Paul and that was what we boys called him when we spoke to him directly—otherwise he was the “Polish guy.” He always ate hunched over so nothing could fall off the plate or bowl.

Mama made soup from potatoes, beets, cabbages, barley, beans, peas, lentils and the weekly chicken soup.  All the grain and vegetable soups had some form of beef in them and were served fiery hot—that’s the way Papa liked it. 

We boys always blew on the soup in the spoon before we could put it in our mouth.  The only exception was the summer borsht that was served cold and with a big dollop of sour cream.

Chicken soup was the “no surprise” weekly staple.  Mama’s secret ingredient was parsnip.  She said it made the soup sweet.  There were carrots, celery, and of course dill and plenty of kosher salt.  Those little egg yolks were a rare find, for the only hens that went to the shoykhet for chicken soup were the ones who were non-layers. 
Theses old birds were tough as cardboard to chew.  This was the beginning of my lifelong dislike of the white meat—the chicken breast (beylik).  It was like chewing on cardboard and I imagined it tasted like it.   

No clam chowder or lobster bisque ever came to our kosher table.   No cream of corn, cream of asparagus, cream of mushroom, French onion or New Orleans bouillabaisse “soups,” were ever on our farm menu. 

At Thanksgiving time, we had turkey and there was no soup on that day.  The gorgl (neck), pupik (gizzard), harts (heart), fis (feet) and fliglekh (wings) were saved for soup the following week. 

Naturally the huge helzdl was stuffed, but never for Thanksgiving.