Comfort Food

We all have that favorite meal from our childhood. The meal that evokes my happiest memories is Ham Soup. My Jewish mother learned to cook from her Polish in-laws, and this dish was a family favorite. (Clearly, my mother had no interest in keeping a kosher kitchen.) Part of the allure of this meal is that it always followed a holiday: Christmas or Easter. (When you have one Jewish parent and one Catholic parent, all holidays are celebrated!) Basically, this is what we did with leftover holiday ham. Whatever ham is left on the bone becomes the heart of the next meal. My mom insisted on ham butts – never ham shanks. Yellow split peas are the key ingredient to this soup. In California in the 1960s, this was a hard-to-obtain item. My mom would get care packages sent from her sister-in-laws in Buffalo, New York. I get mine from Whole Foods Market. Green split peas are just not the same – they never get creamy enough. Also, you don’t want too much peas in the mix; after all, this is NOT pea soup, it is ham soup. For me, the vegetables are the best part. Truth be told, I have primarily eaten a vegetarian diet since I was 14. However, never wanting to pass up a cultural experience, I indulge in animal protein a few times a year. Since my kids (now adults) also love ham soup, it remains a bi-annual favorite.

Ham Soup Recipe


  • Bone from a Ham Butt
  • 1 – 1 & 1/2 C. Dried Yellow Split Peas
  • Yellow Onion
  • 6-8 Carrots
  • 2-3 Potatoes
  • Bay Leaf
  • Salt
  • Pepper


  • Sort and rinse yellow split peas.
  • Trim visible fat from the remains of the ham butt – this is easy to do after the ham has been refrigerated over night.
  • Place the ham butt and peas in a large pot.
  • Fill with water to nearly cover the ham butt.
  • Add the bay leaf.
  • Bring to a boil, then turn to low.
  • Stir periodically.
  • Simmer until peas melt – about two hours.
  • Remove ham bone.
  • Peel and slice carrots – add to soup.
  • Peel and chop potatoes – add to soup.
  • Peel and chop onion – add to soup.
  • Carve desirable meat from bone – cut into bite-sized pieces – add to soup.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • When the vegetables are soft, the soup is done.
  • Serve with a loaf of artisan bread and enjoy! ❤️


2 thoughts on “Comfort Food

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