Grandma Rachel and Her Soups

I never knew any of my grandparents but my mother always told me I was like her mother, my Grandma Rachel. I didn’t get the red hair, but I did get her name and her soups. Ah, those soups. Today, I will share some soup insights.

First, get yourself some dried legumes–these are the dried peas, beans, and lentils you find in the market and wonder how to cook. Here’s how and almost any of the legumes will work well with this treatment.


I like yellow split pea soup for Thanksgiving as I think it is a bit lighter than the green and adds a nice color to the meal. But you can use green. Plus, consider Grandma’s legendary barley and bean soup, made with pearl barley and the large limas, also dried.

In honor of our many vegetarian friends and family (I have a leaning that way myself), I have worked on a good vegetarian version of this soup, although Grandma and Mom made it with chicken. Soak a whole package of peas overnight and then wash them.

And now, a pause for my three infallible rules for success in life.

1. Always make a copy before you send something out.

2. Always get a receipt in writing

3. Always fry an onion before you cook.

We will deal with Rule #3 in this post. Before you prepare any of these soups, fry several onions in whatever fat you prefer–I like either butter or margarine–until they are light brown. ADDING RAW ONIONS IS NOT THE SAME. (My father always said he hated onions but we all knew that he loved the fried ones when Mom cooked with them–although I’m not sure to this day that he knew it.)Then add 10-12 cups of water (depending on how thick you like your soup) and bring to a boil. Add the peas, turn down the flame, cover and cook until they burst out of their shells and make a nice thickish liquid. I like mine a little thinner for a first course. You could also add one cut-up chicken if you like and cook in the soup for an hour. For the chicken version, add two cups of cut up carrots, one cup of cut up celery, cover and simmer.

For the vegetarian version, I add a pound–yes you heard me–of peeled, cut up carrots to bring sweetness to the soup and two cups of cut up celery. Salt and pepper to taste. I have also sometimes added some crushed garlic to the soup, but for a first course, I like it a little simpler to prepare the palate for the goodies to follow.


I feel it incumbent upon me to discuss the barley and bean soup just in case you want to go for it and this would not be a bad thing. Follow the directions above but do NOT use all the barley in the package–only half–and use the very large limas; cook until the beans split. As before, add carrots and celery in amounts listed above. This soup defines hearty and it is Grandma’s signature soup. It is hard to serve it before dinner and still eat the main course so make it for dinner instead, especially with chicken.


A word about chicken soup. Many of the steps are the same. Fry several onions, add 10 cups water, boil, then add one cut up chicken (no peas or beans this time), two cups of carrots and two of celery. Cook for at least an hour covered on simmer and here’s the secret to that famous taste. Add an entire bunch of parsley and one of dill; remove most of it before serving. Of course, it cannot be denied that noodles and/or matzo balls go well in this soup. N.B. Do NOT take the fat off the chicken first; this would be a Mistake. The fat helps to give the soup its inimitable flavor. If you don’t want chicken fat, you shouldn’t be eating chicken soup. I am convinced it is the fat that heals you. Any of these soups is just right for cold weather and although I grew up in warm Los Angeles, they were good there too.


Mom prepared these over the decades and forged one of the few links I have with Grandma Rachel. I watched her make them and when I cook these soups, I think of them both. Thanks Mom. And Grandma.

MomGrandma Rachel

My brothers (who knew Grandma Rachel), my children, my nieces and nephews all share Grandma with me, so this is for all of you also.

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