A soul-warming soup from Yemen


My grandmother was such a powerful woman. I wrote this article in her memory, and for the memories she gave me and my family.

Both of my grandmas made aliyah to Israel from Yemen in the 1950s, one of them at the age of 3. The other one, Saade, made aliyah when she was 25. Her husband, who was much older than she, didn’t want to move to Israel, so he divorced her.

This grandmother got married when she was 9 years old and gave birth seven times before she was 26. All of the babies died of illnesses; none of them survived longer than a year and a half.

Saade made aliyah with her parents and siblings, and a few years later, she married my grandfather. He was married to another woman at the time, but because he didn’t have any sons, he got permission to get married again (polygamy was acceptable under such circumstances in the Yemenite community), and they had four kids, one of whom is my father.

They were married for 13 years, until my grandfather passed away at the age of 56. Saade’s heart was broken. However, she had to manage to come back to normal life for the sake of her four children.

This grandma lived three houses away from me in Ashkelon, Israel, and she had a great connection with all her grandchildren. Every Friday, she made some traditional Yemenite food, such as Yemenite Soup, chicken livers or galube (Yemenite fried bread).

We used to go every Friday to my grandma’s house, talk to her, eat her lovely food, and enjoy being with her. All her grandchildren, including me, took turns sleeping in her house every night so she would not be alone. She made so many happy memories for us in this house! 

It is a tradition in my house to eat Yemenite Soup for lunch every Friday. This is one of the things I miss the most, and it’s one of the reasons why I brought two pounds of hawaij (a spice mix often used in the soup) all the way from Israel to here.

After I got to Rhode Island, I realized that it is very easy to make this spice mix, so no worries if you don’t have it. To make hawaij at home, just mix together 1 tablespoon of black pepper, 1 tablespoon of cumin and 4 tablespoons of turmeric.

The recipe takes around an hour, and at the end, you have an amazing soup that serves 4.

ELIHAY SKITAL is the Israeli shaliach (emissary) to the Rhode Island Jewish community.

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