Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Making of a Bean and Barley Soup...and memories too!

It's funny how things work this case, when G-d closed a door with my mother's illness, he opened many windows, some of which I am only now discovering.

Forgive me, for like my mother, I tend to repeat myself and my well-worn stories.  As I am sure I have already shared with you in an earlier post, this blog was born of loneliness, and a need to fill the deep void Alzheimer's left when it visited my mother.  First, I wrote to her, then I wrote about her, and ultimately I wrote for her.  And along the way, I was blessed with a modest following of fans, who enjoy my stories and recipes, and are getting acquainted with Mom with each new post. 

Then I regained some long lost family, and forgotten ties were renewed.   I also gained a new family we did not know existed...the long-lost branch of Chaliffs which numbers over 800 people!  The Phyllises came into my life and I would dare say that the connection was instant.  Sometimes blood ties really are that strong....

But that was not it.  I met my "rock star" online - yes, Norene Gilletz actually knows who I am!  And I became a part of her online family - Norene's Kitchen - and met many amazing people.  I have "clicked" with some of them too, and they have filled a space in that void.

Then my friend Ellin, an amazing lady and wonderful journalist, decided to write about mothers and daughters and food..she met with Norene yesterday morning, and came here last night to document "The Making of a Bean and Barley Soup".  So I tried to polish up the kitchen as best I could (lest we forget that this kitchen of ours has been in overdrive for the past week, preparing for the holidays) and make myself look presentable as I chopped onions, carrots, celery and flanken!  It was a whirlwind of activity and very exciting.  The article and video will appear in the Toronto Star next week...I will let you know when it does, and post a link to it as well!

And don't think that choosing the dish to be featured was an easy feat...for it was not.  I polled the mishpucha (family) during our Chanuka celebrations on Monday night.  Davie and Sara were pulling for Rib Roast, but it is not something that can be prepared in 1 hour.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that Davie and I share the same fond memories of Mom's dishes, and also share many of the same favourites - Chili, Spaghetti Sauce, etc. - but ultimately it was Carlo who came up with the perfect recipe - Mom's Bean and Barley Soup.  What better way to warm your bones on a cold winter's night (on which we had the first snowfall of the year!) than Mom's B&B Soup?  It really does capture the essence of my Jewish Mother and her nurturing and loving yesterday I left work early and ran to Sobey's to ask Danny (the butcher and my "go-to" guy for all things meat) for some flanken and beef sugar bones...then came home and tidied up.  

By the end of the evening the soup was made, but not yet ready to eat.  I was (and still am) exhausted and Carlo took us out to dinner at the Pickle Barrel ("What does a nice Jewish girl like me make when she doesn't feel like cooking? Reservations!"). Tonight I am standing beside the stove stirring my soup pot which is slowly heating up this liquid gold, and marvelling at my many blessings. 

Today another handful of surprises awaited me.  I got a call from a lawyer who was returning my dad's the end of the conversation she asked my name, and then asked if I was Moishe's daughter.  It turns out she and mom were good friends a lifetime (mine to be exact!) ago, and we will be meeting up for lunch the next time I am in her neck of the woods.  She is happy to fill in some of the blanks of my mother's life as a young woman in 1960s Toronto.  What an exciting discovery for me! 

And then I got a FB friend request from one of my mom's dearest friends, who shared not only her life, but also her birthday!  Many of the slips of paper I have found in the Golden Treasures cookbook belong to Ethel M., and I cannot wait to share them with you in upcoming posts. 

Meanwhile, I owe you, my handful of fans, a slew of posts, and I promise I will start to catch them up ASAP.  For now, here is the Bean and Barley Soup that Bubbie Lou got from her sister Adele, and made for my mother....which my mother made for me, and which I now make for my family. 

From my family to yours...I wish you a wonderful evening filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food!  B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito!

Louise and Carol's Bean & Barley Soup

  • 1/4 lb beef short ribs (flanken)
  • 4 marrow bones (or beef sugar bones)
  • 1 package small mushrooms (fresh are best)
  • 4 large carrots, cut into rounds
  • 4 large celery stalks, diced
  • 2 medium cooking onions, chopped
  • 1C pot or pearl barley (I always use pearl)
  • 1C navy beans
  • 1 cooking spoon of salt
Method: Cut meat, place into stock pot with marrow bones.  Fill pot with water (2 inches from the top).  Bring to a boil.  Skim off all the scum.  Once it reaches a rolling boil with no scum forming, reduce the heat and clean the sides of the pot.  Add salt, beans and barley.  Stir.  Add mushrooms, carrot, celery and onions.  Reduce heat.  Allow to reach a boil (on the lowered heat), further reduce the heat and let simmer for 2 hours.  Refrigerate and remove schmaltz (fat) from top.  Reheat to serve.