Before we started our mission church, we traveled 2 hours to attend church in Memphis. We love this church so much, but often felt like we were observing this community from a distance and not able to participate in their life. We attended Pascha, but we couldn't stay for the picnics and parties, and so a lot of our celebrating happened alone. We wouldn't even be Orthodox or have our own mission for a few more years, and so it was lonely at times.
One year Kh. Susan (who was my first Orthodox friend), wrote about one of their traditions: making Magiritsa on Pascha. A friend had taught her this recipe, which is meant to feed the whole church, and the instructions factor in the timing of the services. After her friend Urania died, Kh. Susan wanted to pass on the tradition to other women in their church. When I read Kh. Susan's writing about making soup with her friend, I wanted so badly to be one of those women learning to make lamb soup in the kitchen at St. John. I don't imagine that Greek soup or red eggs are among the more important parts of Christianity, but they play a really beautiful role, sanctifying our daily lives and connecting us to each other. This special meal on this special day is one of the ways they are bound together in community. I wanted to belong, too.
So I made her soup. At home in my own kitchen. I remember that was the year we were choosing a house site on our land. We put some soup in a thermos and had a picnic during Bright Week on our house site. The kids were just babies, our house was just a dream, and my Orthodox community was in a thermos hours away from the church.
But it was a beginning.
Now, we have a thriving parish with many friends who teach us their faith. I am grateful for the time my friend Tina spent teaching me to make kolliva; and for Emily, who helped me to make my prosfora loaves more even; and for all the others who share their life and faith with us in these simple and cullinary ways. And now I'm making this soup for my parish, carrying on a tradition of someone I didn't know, but who was well loved.
So anyway, make some soup. You should read her full directions at the link above with directions for making the soup for a large parish around the services, but the proportions I used (about 1/4th recipe) are as follows:
2 lbs lamb
1 small batch parsley
1 small batch cilantro
1 bunch green onions
1/2 yellow onion
1/2 TBSP fresh dill
2 TBSP butter
Avgolemono Sauce:juice of 3 lemons (9 TBSPs lemon juice)
1 1/4 TBSP cornstarch
salt and pepper to taste
Cook the lamb in a big soup pot. When cooked add the butter and all the chopped herbs and onions. Add enough water to make soup. [ I think I added 8-10 cups of water.] Simmer for 1 hour or longer. Meanwhile, whisk together the Avgolemono sauce. Shortly before serving, slowly add some of the broth to the avgolemono sauce a little at a time, stirring constantly so that the eggs do not curdle. Then add the mixture to the soup pot, and stir constantly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. (I always make mine ahead of time and my eggs always curdle from sitting in the crock pot so long. Its still wonderful, though!)