Passover starts soon, and the most important part of the celebration is called a Seder which means order. The order is prescribed in a little book called Haggada that we read at the table. The most important part of that is called Maggid which is the actual story of redemption and exodus from Egypt. And the most important part of the story, repeated several times, is an admonition to share the holiday meal with a widow, an orphan, and a stranger because “you were strangers in a foreign land.” The same admonition is found in many other Biblical and Talmudic sources.
As soon as I started understanding the words in the Haggada, I asked about this line. Even as a little four- or five-year old, I sensed a lapse of logic: as strangers in Egypt, we had been slaves, sorely mistreated; we finally escaped, and, as a reminder of that ordeal, we have to welcome strangers to our table? It hadn’t make sense until my grandmother gave me an explanation so profound that it has affected my entire life. “When you do something good for another person, – she said, – don’t expect them to reciprocate. But at some point in your life, that good deed, that bit of kindness will be returned to you when you need it the most. And if someone, G-d forbid, does you wrong, don’t ever take revenge and don’t worry – He is watching out for you and will pay them back.” For many centuries of exile, we have been persecuted in many places by many people, but because every Passover we make sure to welcome a stranger to our table, there have always been kind souls who have extended the same kindness to us. In a much earlier post, I extolled the gracious welcome enjoyed by Jews in Florence, Italy (please see Pollo Fritto Artistico). In gratitude to people of Florence, I am sharing a recipe for a traditional Tuscan Cannelini and Kale soup.
In Renaissance Florence, this soup would’ve been enjoyed on Passover as it does not contain any leavened wheat products. The Rabbinical prohibition against legumes, rice, and corn was issued in Eastern Europe in 13th century because rice, beans, and corn were often stored in the same sacks that had previously held grain, and particles of that grain would obviously be leavened when cooked. Another reason had to do with grinding beans and corn into flour, possibly confusing those types of flour with wheat or rye. Sephardic (Spanish) Jews, such as my Moroccan daughter-in-law, do not have to abide by this rule. However, as I come from Ashkenazi (Eastern European) tradition, I had to get rid of all the precooked beans in my freezer before Passover. Thus, I dumped some cannellini beans in boiling water and cooked them for a while until they became very soft.
Next, I grated a carrot and roughly chopped a bunch of kale. I dumped both into the pot and brought it to boil again.
Once I got it boiling, I added a heaping tablespoon of pareve soup powder, some salt and pepper, and lots of squeezed garlic. I stirred it, reduced to simmer, and simmered, and simmered, and simmered… The longer, the better, until the beans practically dissolve, and you get a thick creamy mass, but don’t forget to stir once in a while, as the beans tend to get sentimentally attached to the bottom of the pot. While it’s cooking, please listen to a classic Barbara Lewis’ rendition of…
As you enjoy this simple, yet hearty and very healthy soup, please don’t forget to share it with a stranger because when you need it, someone will offer a bowl of soup to you!
- 2 cups precooked cannellini (white navy) beans, or 1 cup dry
- 2 cups loosely packed roughly shredded kale
- 1 cup grated carrots (1 large carrot)
- 3 – 4 garlic cloves, squeezed
- 1 heaping tablespoon vegetable soup powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh parsley to garnish
- Boil beans in two quarts of water until extremely soft. Add kale and carrots, bring to boil.
- Add the rest of ingredients, stir, reduce to simmer. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Serve garnished with fresh parsley.
Happy Passover – Hag Pesach Kosher v’Sameach! Enjoy!