BY DR. NURIT ISRAELI
The last day of 2017, the year’s
coldest, was the perfect kind of
day to tap into my roots and prepare
a big pot of Polish borscht.
I brought a container to our NST
friends. I loved that they loved it
and asked me to bring some more
when we came to ring in 2018.
There is always love in the pot…
It is a chilly morning. A pot of
borscht is simmering on the
stove, and the familiar aroma
sends me back in time.
Food was my mother’s domain.
She loved to feed us, and memories
of her continue to live on in
the soothing flavors of her savory
soups. “Soups are very forgiving,”
my mother used to say. “No two
batches come out quite the same.
Make your own version. Improvise.
Add a little bit of this and a little
bit of that. Stir. Keep on tasting.
Let it simmer. It’ll take care of
itself.” Hers was an evolving family
version, a recipe inherited from her
own mother, adapted to our tastes.
The main ingredient was cabbage
rather than beets. With added
onions and carrots, peppers and
potatoes, stewed tomatoes, and
mounds of chopped dill. They all
join forces, just try and see...
In later years, when
my mother came to
visit, I would make
“her soup” for
her more. The
first time I made
this soup without
her—a few days after
she died—I felt her presence.
When I miss her greatly, I go back
to the kitchen. Making soup is my
way of going home again. When I
make her soups, I am my mother’s
When my father was already gone
and my mother was elderly and
frail, I took my family to Poland—
to honor my parents by visiting the
landscapes of their youth. We ate
borscht every single day. In every
city. Lunch and dinner (sometimes
breakfast, too!)—hearty borscht
with potato-filled pierogi.
Time and again, I’m surprised by
how good it feels when my family
and friends enjoy my Polish
borscht. When even my
request “the red
soup.” When my
it. When my
(I always make large
amounts, just in case…). It was
heartwarming to be told by my
granddaughter recently that borscht
is her favorite soup. It was gratifying
to have her come over, just
before she left for college, to cook
borscht with me, so she could learn
An evolving family version of an
earthy soup. A soup I ate as a child,
and my parents ate before me. A
soup which has been prepared similarly
across three continents—offering
consolation when times are bad
and simple pleasures when times are
good. A soup my children learned to
love and my grandchildren ask for.
A bloodline flavored with ruby-colored
soups. Steaming bowls filled
with smithereens of memories.
Spoonfuls of homemade comfort,
transported through time—carrying
tradition and love…
Nurit Israeli holds a doctorate
in psychology from Columbia
University. For more than thirty
years, she has been director of a
family therapy department, coordinator
of training programs in
psychology, and associate professor
of psychology, specializing in
couple and family therapy. Nurit
has published poems in numerous
poetry anthologies, the “New York
Times,” “Writer’s Digest” and other
online and print journals. Several
of her poems have won awards in
poetry writing competitions.
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February 2018 ¢ NORTH SHORE TOWERS COURIER 33