Soups On! JCC Cook-off Mixes Hot Soup and Warm Fellowship in Wintry Romania
“Is it time for soup yet?” was a question voiced by young and old last Sunday as they crowded into the JDC-supported Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Bucharest, Romania. They were there for the 4th edition of what has already become a much-loved winter tradition—the annual soup-making contest called Ciorberia.
JDC has put its best community development ideas into practice through the Bucharest JCC, staging innovative, even unexpected programs to appeal to Jews of different ages and backgrounds and attract them to the community. Ciorberia has succeeded in doing exactly that. As one of this year’s 350 participants explained: “I heard about last year's event and here I am for the very first time. I especially love the community feeling and atmosphere, not to mention all the flavors you can feel in the air.”
After all, what better way to ward off a Romanian winter’s icy blast than with a bowl of hot, home-cooked soup?
Members of the Jewish community are encouraged to take part in Ciorberia as contestants—cooking up their own treasured recipe on the spot—or as tasters, purchasing coupons that allow them to sample all of the offerings and vote for their favorite soups.
In addition to this “popular vote,” an official jury—whose members ranged in age from 6 to 72 and included two famous local chefs—determined the five “most exciting” soups.
The 28 varieties entered in this year’s contest were prepared by community members of all ages, using mostly traditional Jewish recipes transmitted from generation to generation. The crowd eagerly snapped up copies (offered at a modest price) of the Ciorberia 4Recipe Book, which contained all of the competing recipes and was prepared in Hebrew and Romanian.
With over 600 bowls of soup sold, the event was a resounding success. The crowd favorite was the Romanian bean soup, prepared by kids at the Gan Eden Jewish kindergarten and their teachers.
This is “the most tasty event of the year,” declared one happy participant, though a six-year-old was a bit more critical: “I have tasted four different soups. I liked two of them a lot, one of them so-so, and the fourth one was too spicy!”
Kitchen aprons were presented to the contest winners, while all the contestants got chefs’ caps, and extra prizes were awarded to the two youngest chefs. One of those, 10-year-old Dara, had insisted on preparing her own spinach soup recipe, though her family was a third-time participant in the contest.
Suzi, an 85-year-old member of the JCC’s Day Center program who had competed in all previous Ciorberia events, offered no less than three different soups this time around—and one of them proved a winner. It was a traditional Jewish beef soup that she’d learned how to prepare from her own grandmother, many decades ago.
It was this kind of connection between Jewish past and present that made this event so special, providing as it did food for the body and for the Jewish soul.
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