Flashback Friday – Lost in Translation

The following post originally appeared on BAH on 26 August 2009.

Soup's On

Some families have recipes that they pass down like heirlooms. These treasures connect generations and keep traditions alive. Other families mostly just have the memories of dishes that used to be, like Grandma’s fried chicken or Auntie’s pound cake. That would be my family.

I had all of my grandparents alive growing up. I even had great grandparents. To keep the great grandparents straight, we called them by the name of the street that they used to live on way before I was born…at least that’s the story I was given. So we had Michigan Grandma and Grandpa and Kilbourne Grandma. The great grandparents were already senior citizens by the time I can first remember them. Michigan Grandpa, for example, was born in the late 1800′s. So by the late 1970′s, he had already seen the world change around him. Seriously, he came to America on a boat after the turn of the century. He didn’t speak a word of English and, as the story goes, had a note pinned to his coat with instructions to get him on a train and out to his father who had already moved to this country. Upon arriving at the train station, my great great grandfather was called to let him know his son had arrived. My great grandfather had never seen a telephone before and thought the box through which his father’s voice was coming was the devil. Or so I was told.

I was also told how good the cold cucumber soup was that Michigan Grandma used to make. My aunts and uncles would get together and eventually someone would bring up Michigan Grandma’s cucumber soup, or potato pancakes, or Michigan Grandpa’s homemade booze. As we like to say today, good times. I never got to try the soup or potato pancakes. But we did run across a bottle of Michigan Grandpa’s booze in the cellar after he died. That was one recipe that definitely would not make for a good heirloom.

Now, as an adult, I wanted to try and recreate the cold cucumber soup. My parents were coming up for a visit and I thought it would be great to surprise my dad with it. He had said that my uncle had the recipe. So I asked for it. I was expecting something that resembled an actual recipe. What I got instead was a cryptic shopping list. No quantities. No instructions. It looked like this:

  • cucumbers, grated or chopped
  • salt
  • dill
  • onion, chopped fine
  • sour cream
  • stir ice in really well
  • hard boiled eggs
  • vinegar, if desired

Well now, what was I supposed to do with that? Since I’d never had the original soup, I had no idea what I was working towards. So, I decided to come up with my own interpretation of this family classic. After my dad finished his second bowl of soup, he said it was just as good as Grandma’s. While I may have lost something in the translation, I think this definitely gets filed away under family treasures.

Cold Cucumber Soup

  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and rough chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Fresh dill to taste
  • 1/2 shallot diced
  • 1 cup sour cream, plus more to taste
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Place cucumbers, shallot, salt, and dill in a food processor. Pulse until cucumbers are nearly pureed. Add sour cream and pulse until creamy and smooth. Add vinegar and additional sour cream to taste and pulse to mix.

{Printable Recipe}

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