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The Nettle Sorrel Soup was so delicious, I considered it a gateway to Schav, a purer use of sorrel that by never having sampled had become a little mythic. You eat it cold.  And yes, that’s the true colour in the photo above, what we might have thought of as pea-green, a little dreary, a little khaki. I resisted the photoshop urge because I want to speak the truth about Schav.  I placed the spoon in this position so you too could imagine picking it up and experiencing a spoon-full.

It’s what the real old-timers ate, the ones who gesticulated with their hands and ate intense, heavy food like … Liver and Egg Salad, or Chopped Liver in moulded, perhaps grotesque shapes, maybe with strawberries, maybe with pineapple.  Or at least such recipes appear in my all time favourite Jewish cookbook Love and Knishes, along with loads of dishes with schmaltz and lima beans and kasha– these kind of ingredients.  So the book was a natural first place to look for an “authentic” recipe for Schav.

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Love and Knishes is a charming book. The authorial voice of Sara Kasdan is affectionate, ironic, hilarious, and most instructive, and offers a peak into what some Jewish American kitchens might have looked liked in 1956.  Whimsical illustrations by Louis Slobodkin depict joy and fright in equal measure– I’m proud to be the one who added this book to the Wikipedia list of his accomplishments.

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And I very much like the dedication in this book.  Important to remember the ones who went before:

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You serve Schav with hard boiled eggs and a boiled potato, and they feel so …  echt.  (Yes, similar soups might puree the potato, or beat the eggs and add as a thickener at the end. Kasdan presents another “Gourmet’s Schav” that includes dill and is prepared by this method.)

But the way the potato and egg float on top– it all seems rather physically deconstructed.  You imagine what your senses might have perceived in a Russian shtetl.

I found this soup weird.  I pretended to like it, to my husband and children, pretended I was really into the sourness and slight bitter sweetened with sugar, because I wanted to be into it.  I did like the bites that included potato and egg.   The experience was slightly estranging, underlining the personal and cultural subjectivity of pleasure.

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No one else in my family exhibited much any enthusiasm, but Schav has been on my bucket list for so long, and now that I have lovely sorrel established in a perennial bed, I had to investigate this old-world soup.  I admit I mixed what remained of it with some leftover broccoli and rice, and all was forgiven. So back for me to mixing sorrel with other greens for a perfect balance.  But glad nonetheless to have tried!

Sara Kasdan’s Schav

(This is a HUGE amount.  I quartered it, for more than four ample servings.)

  • 1 pound sorrel
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Juice of two lemons –funny, to add extra sour then to sweeten with
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • hot boiled potatoes

garnish with green onions or sliced hard boiled eggs

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Wash and drain the sorrel leaves, place in salted water and boil.  Return to simmer for 10 minutes, then add lemon juice and sugar.  Simmer 10 minutes more.  Chill thoroughly. Stir in the sour cream just before serving, with the potato and garnishes.

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A note on technologies:

This hard-boiled-egg slicer belonged to my mother.  Through childhood I played the wires like strings of a lyre, creating rapturous tunes that sounded to me like Uhura music on Star Trek.  My son now enjoys playing with it in a similar fashion.  Such folly is a fantastic benefit of having hard boiled eggs to slice.

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