Thick or Thin?

Posted on January 6, 2015 by in About the Book, Blog, Uncategorized

left to right: my uncle Morton Weiss and my father Sandor Kirsche, Germany 1946

Many of the soup recipes in Food, Family and Tradition, make use of a very simple recipe for Reistle, or what, in classic French cuisine, is known as roux. In simple terms a Reistle or roux is a mixture or flour and fat that, when added to hot liquids, thickens them. Sounds simple, but the difference between Sweet and Sour Green Bean Soup (page 92) with and without the Reistle is like night and day. One is good; the other is rich, creamy and delicious. Reistle can be used to thicken almost any broth-based soup. If Reistle is made with vegetable oil or margarine it is, of course, parve; if made with butter it is dairy. A quick tip or two for Reistle or roux follows. First, the mixture of fat and flour must be cooked first so that the flour absorbs the fat completely. So combine equal amounts of fat and flour (2 tablespoons of fat and 2 of flour is enough to thicken 2 quarts of liquid) in a small saucepan and whisk together over medium heat until the mixture expands and bubbles. Now add liquid. The liquid can be removed from the soup, but needs to be near room temperature; otherwise the Reistle will become lumpy when it is added.

Add a few tablespoons of the liquid to the cooked Reistle, whisking constantly until it is a smooth paste. Slowly add the remaining liquid, whisking well. Now add the mixture to the pot of hot soup, stirring constantly until it is cooked through and thickened.

As with most things in the lives of Survivors, however, nothing was simple, including Reistle, as the following story from the book shows:

Have Reistle, Will Travel

My mother, Margit Kirsche, remembers: “I went to Budapest a few months before the War to visit my brother Morton. He had recently moved there after being released from an insane asylum. He could not be at home, because after being transferred from a slave labor camp to an insane asylum on staged grounds of mental illness, he feared that our hometown neighbors would inform the Nazis that he was, indeed, sane. He hoped to live undetected I the large city of Budapest. I wanted to cook for my brother in Budapest, to give him a taste of home, but without too much fuss. So I took a jar of Reistle with me from home. When I arrived in Budapest, I bought green beans, added water to make the Reistle and cooked the green beans into a sweet and sour soup for Morton and myself. It was delicious.”

Shortly after she returned home to Vásárosnámeny, my mother was taken to the ghetto and from there to Auschwitz. Her brother Morton remained in Budapest until early summer 1944, when he was captured by the Nazis, sent to Auschwitz and then to Buchenwald.

On April 27, 1945, she was liberated by the Americans from Auschwitz and went back home to Vásárosnámeny, not knowing if her brother Morton, her father or any other family members had survived. Finally, after sixe months, she learned that her father had been killed but Morton had survived. It was Morton who smuggled her across six borders from Hungary to Freising, Germany, where had had been living since surviving the Death March from Buchenwald.