One pot of soup at a time

I am so honored that a Hillel colleague (and friend!), Alicia, is writing for us this week.  And, in true Hillel fashion, she has a lot to say about community, amazing students, and the responsibilities that weren’t in the job description.

One of my favorite things to do is make Shabbat for other people. When I say “make Shabbat” I mean hosting a meal, because, for me, the meals are central to the Shabbat experience. For the last four years I’ve rarely had the opportunity to make Shabbat in my home; then again, 32 or so weeks a year, for the last four years, I’ve made Shabbat dinner with and for the students at University of Delaware Hillel. This week was my last Shabbat at UD Hillel.

When I got to UD four years ago, I heard that when there had been soup on Shabbat it was often burned – look, I know that one can burn soup (I certainly did it in my terrible old soup pot), but it’s not easy. I made a point to make sure that there were great soups at Shabbat dinners, and the students quickly
learned that I love to make soups for them. In my first year at UD, a group of students gave me an incredible cookbook: The Soup Bible, which has inspired several of the soups I make (I’m terrible at following recipes!). And, more importantly for me, I have loved serving the soup at every Shabbat dinner I’ve worked at Hillel. I realized a few weeks ago that I had not made Hot & Sour soup this year, which is a favorite with the students, so I planned the rest of the menu around the soup.

Although I haven’t eaten meat in nearly 30 years, I’ve become an expert at making chicken for 80-100 (or more on a handful of occasions), and as I commented while cooking this week, everything I know about making chicken I learned in the UD Hillel kitchen. This week it was chicken with soy sauce,
ginger, pepper and garlic. Continuing the Asian/ginger theme, I added ginger to broccoli and quinoa and vegetables. Of course, the star of the meal, and all I ate, was the soup!

As the last Shabbat of the semester, we honored our graduating seniors. It’s amazing to me that I started my time at UD Hillel when they came to college, and I’ve lived, loved, cried and grown along with them. And, despite my protests, they also took time to honor me, or as I called it, “the thing Alicia
isn’t supposed to know about.” From the moment the student speaker started, I was crying, and it only increased when a colleague and friend took his turn. I was incredibly grateful when we moved into Kiddush (the blessing over the wine) and the attention was off me. I was so excited when two of our graduating seniors, one who founded the Challah for Hunger chapter on our campus, lead us in hamotzi (the blessing over the bread). And, I was thrilled that I got to serve soup. I have loved serving the soup every week, saying hi to every student who is there – I think what made me most aware of my presence in the community was when one student, who I’ve only spoken to in the soup line, said how much he will miss me. Most weeks I keep the cleanup moving; this week, I didn’t even know that it started, as student after student came to hug me, to thank me, and to wish me well. I cried, I laughed, I was overwhelmed with the love. At the end of the night, I sat with a group of my girls to open a gift they put together for me: a pinny from one of their events, Banagrams b’ivrit (in Hebrew – I introduced many of them to Banagrams last year), and a stuffed animal of YouDee (the UD mascot) with a tallit (prayer shawl) and kippa (head covering) that one of the girls hand sewed.

If you ask my students what my favorite thing to talk about is, I think they would (correctly) answer community. For the last four years, I have been blessed to facilitate the growth of the Jewish community at UD. I have watched students come and go, and the community grow and strengthen, one pot of soup at a time.

Hot-and-Sour Soup – UD Hillel Style
(adapted from The Soup Bible, Consulting Editor: Debra Mayhew)
Serves 80-100
3 lbs shiitake mushrooms
vegetable stock
3 lbs regular mushrooms
rice vinegar
5 8oz cans bamboo shoots, drained
chili flakes
2 packages extra firm tofu
13 oz soy sauce
4 egg whites

Remove and discard stems from shiitake mushrooms. Cut the caps into strips. Cut regular mushrooms into strips. Fill large stock pot 2/3 full with vegetable stock, add shiitake and regular mushrooms and bamboo shoots and bring to boil. Turn down heat to simmer. Cut tofu into cubes and add to soup. Add
soy sauce and rice vinegar (to taste). Stir in a few shakes of chili flakes (more if you and your guests like spicy food) and a small scoop of sugar (probably a couple tablespoons). Lightly beat (or pretend to) egg whites, then pour slowly into the soup, while stirring.

Hot-and-Sour Soup
(from The Soup Bible, Consulting Editor: Debra Mayhew)
Serves 4
¼ ounce dried cloud ears
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
8 fresh shiitake mushrooms
¼ teaspoon chili oil
3 ounces firm tofu
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup sliced and drained canned bamboo shoots
a large pinch of freshly ground white pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 ¼ cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon cold water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg white
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 scallions, cut into fine rings, to garnish

Soak the cloud ears in hot water for 30 minutes, or until soft. Drain, trim off, and discard the hard base from each, and chop the could ears roughly.
Remove and discard the stems from the shiitake mushrooms. Cut the caps into thin strips. Cut the tofu into ½ inch cubes, and shred the bamboo shoots finely. Place the stock, mushrooms, tofu, and cloud ears in a large saucepan.
Bring the stock to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in the sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, chili oil, and pepper. Stir the cornstarch to a paste with the water. Add the mixture to the soup, stirring until the soup thickens slightly. Lightly beat the egg white, then pour it slowly in a steady stream, stirring constantly. Cook, stirring, until the egg white changes color.
Add the sesame oil just before serving. Ladle into warm bowls and garnish each portion with scallion rings.


1 Comment

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One response to “One pot of soup at a time

  1. Donna Cohen

    My Alicia
    You touch so many people with love and friendship, warmth and inclusion. I know you have had great impact on your students, and will continue to make positive impacts on those you will meet in the future. I love you, you have made great impact on my life since July 25, 1981.
    Your Mom

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