Souper Meals with Sabah and Mom

“I have always relied on the kindness of strangers,” admits Blanche DuBois, an aging belle in Tennessee Williams’ classic play A Streetcar Named Desire. Blanche has had the props knocked from under her and has nowhere to turn except to her sister Stella, also living in reduced circumstances.

Sabah’s Story

In a far, far different context and definitely not because they have the slightest desire to do so, refugees from all over the world have been forced to rely on the kindness of strangers as they flee terrifying conditions in their homelands.

Such has been the case of Sabah Jabri, who with her husband and children left bomb-scarred Baghdad, Iraq in 2007 with just identification documents and the clothes on their backs and fled to Syria, ironically back then a peaceful respite from warfare.

Photo courtesy of Lancaster Online
Photo of Sabah and her soup courtesy of Lancaster Online

Sabah, an accountant, and her husband Alaa, a civil engineer, fled Baghdad when fighting between Sunni and Shiite militias made daily life unbearable. They ended up in Syria for a year, cared for by a family whose home – and whose soup – they shared, a dish they called “yakhni.”


After a year in Syria, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees assigned the family to emigrate again to Ephrata in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch County.

Currently, Sabah is manager of the Café at Ten Thousand Villages in Ephrata, where you can be sure this soup is on the menu. The article in Lancaster Online did not include the recipe (Of course not!) but the ingredients were listed: chunks of chicken breast, potatoes, carrots, onions and chickpeas in a hearty broth. Incidentally, Ten Thousand Villages in Ephrata offers fair trade items worldwide for sale.

More than sixty years ago, a visionary named Edna Ruth Byler worked through the Mennonite Central Committee to begin an enterprise which has mushroomed into Ten Thousand Villages.

. . . [She] believed that she could provide sustainable economic opportunities for artisans in developing countries by creating a viable marketplace for their products in North America. She began a grassroots campaign among her family and friends in the United States by selling handcrafted products out of the trunk of her car. Byler made a concerted effort to educate her community about the lives of artisans around the world.

Ten thousand Villages is the result, an undertaking that has grown well beyond the tiny house of its inception and offers for sale baskets, jewelry scarves, bags, kitchen & dining articles, toys and other items from artisans, particularly women, around the world.

Mom’s Soup

Mother also knew the nutritional heartiness of soup and often had vegetable soup waiting for us when we drove or flew up from Florida at Christmastime. Within five minutes of our arrival, one of us would fly into the kitchen and open the Frigidaire to see whether there was a ceramic pull-out drawer full of soup in the bottom left.


Chicken corn soup was also her specialty, with hard-boiled eggs and rivels, doughy droplets made from flour  . . .

Mom's Chicken Corn Soup without Rivels
Mom’s Chicken Corn Soup without Rivels


Author, editor, and cookbook writer Melodie Davis has recently featured savory Spanish lentil soup on her website where the recipe for the dish below appears.



Quotes about Soup

Soup is a lot like a family. Each ingredient enhances the others; each batch has its own characteristics; and it needs time to simmer to reach full flavor.         ~ Marge Kennedy


Only the pure of heart can make good soup.                ~ Beethoven


And finally, Bennet Cerf defines good manners as “The noise you don’t make when you’re eating soup.”



How has soup enhanced your life? Do you think Beethoven is right in the quote attributed to him? Do you have a choice recipe to share?


Coming next: A Snow Bunny and a German Lullaby



Mom and Gus: PA Dutch Fare

My mom’s sacred space is her kitchen where she offers the sacrifice of her heart and hands to those in need and indeed her family. On my last trip to Pennsylvania, Mother made chicken corn soup from a recipe in her head. When I ask her how much of this or that, her quick reply is always, “Just how you think.” I don’t know what to think, so I always try to extract some measurements out of her. Her current “guess” for our favorite harvest soup:

Mother Longenecker’s Chicken Corn Soup

Cook 5-6 pieces of chicken, breasts or thighs. Set aside.

In broth from cooked chicken, add 1 ½ – 2 pints of corn, fresh or frozen.

Dice 4 hard-boiled eggs.

Now, add chicken breasts, chopped up

Season with salt & pepper to taste

Mom's Chicken Corn Soup without Rivels
Mom’s Chicken Corn Soup without Rivels

Rivels: dough-y lumps can be added to soup for more texture

1 beaten egg

Add enough flour to make a moist doughiness of the mixture.

Break into small dumpling-like pieces and add to soup.

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About 2 miles east of Mom’s house near Mt. Joy is Gus’s Restaurant. Gus is Italian, but his eatery is in Lancaster County, so aside from spaghetti, fish dishes, and fancy desserts on the menu, he offers ham loaf and pork and sauerkraut dinners with mashed potatoes for hearty Pennsylvania Dutch appetites.
A heavy meal, this dinner will give us enough fuel to make it to the Philadelphia Airport and then home to Jacksonville. Gus’s food is tasty, but Gus’s is a public place without a hoard of cooking aromas and shared memories from Mom’s Kitchen, her sacred space. In fact, it’s not a fair competition at all.
There’s no contest!
What favorite recipes do you savor during the fall season?
What are your memories of special dishes around the table with friends or family?
Coming next: Old Friends, New Friend: Homecoming @ EMU
Your thoughts welcome! I will always reply.