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Soups:  The First Foods
Soups:  The First Foods

Combining various ingredients in a large pot to create a nutritious, filling, easily digested, simple to make/serve food is the basic definition of a soup. This made it the perfect choice for many cultures, rich and poor, and traidtional soups evolved according to locally available ingredients and tastes.

Soups are a lifesaver in cold wintry weather, when they are cooked several times a week. With large families at hand, soup can fill many stomachs and provide excellent nutrition. Beans provide protein and vegetables give added vitamins. There is nothing more tempting, more nutritious and more filling than a bowl of homemade soup.

As family members struggled into her kitchen prior to a holiday meal, Sarina's mother Renée would say, “Sit down. I’ll give you a bowl of soup while you wait.”  Sometimes six or seven people hoped for a seat around her small round kitchen table, while others stood until they could get their bowls, each filled with potatoes, thinly sliced carrots and a matzo ball. Other soups that we loved were Chicken shulbah (tomato rice), and split pea.

Soups, known in Arabic as shourba, were sustenance for the poorest peasants throughout Middle East history. Soups are served as side dishes, with mezze, as appetizers, or as a full meal with salad and hot pita.

We use easy to find fresh ingredients in tried and true traditional Middle Eastern soup recipes that are delicious, wholesome and flavorful, while also nutritious and filling. Hardy legumes such as chickpeas and lentils as well as common vegetables that thrive in semi-arid lands are heavily used in these culinary delights prepared with citrus lemon, pungent herbs and aromatic spices.

Many of these dishes are vegetarian or can be prepared by leaving out the meat or chicken. These mouth-watering everyday soups will diffuse their enticing aromas in your home. Ironically, since soups are known as peasant foods, they were not served to guests. They satisfy the hunger, are economical to prepare and give one a feeling of warmth. I've rarely had a guest come for dinner who doesn't hope for a warm bowl of Chicken matzah ball soup. If I know I am serving a vegetarian guest, I will prepare lentil or minestrone soup.