Emma’s Shtetl Chicken Soup

As told to Leslie by her grandmother who learned it from her own mother Greta, and so on back in time.

soup-bowl-425168_640Summer of 1888: Emma wore her heavy boots and home spun dress as she made her way through the narrow cobbled streets in Balut, the Jewish Ghetto in Lodz, Poland. She was on her way to the butcher. Even as a girl she had a purposeful stride as she threaded her way through the alleys, beyond the tailor’s shop, foot pedals whirring, and the the local produce on this Market Day. Most people were inured to the smell of draymen’s horses that were housed in close quarters within the shtetl, but Emma covered her nose as she scurried beyond it.

Greta had sent her only daughter to buy a chicken for their Sabbath meal. All nine family members would share in the weekly treat of one chicken boiled in a shisel with vegetables. At ten years of age, Emma had learned to select the best chicken from the kosher butcher’s yard. Mimicking her mother, she extended her arm and pointed straight to the fattest chicken. The butcher grabbed it, wrung its neck, and handed it to Emma to carry home. There was no clean, white butcher paper in those days, so Emma put it in her homespun sack.

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