Ottoman Emancipation: Lentil Soup

Music Pairing: Bob Marley, Redemption Song


Growing up as a kid in Manhattan, Aaron was not fond of many of the culinary offerings served at home.  While his adoptive mom Sue was a wonderful cook, for his early palette, some of the more “exotic” dishes were less appealing to a young kid.  Say…lentil soup, for example.  For this one, we are going to supply one of Aaron’s short poems to capture the sentiment of yesteryear though a moment of retrospective humor (see below:)).  However, you must wonder about the title, and we are eager to explain.  When we got together, one of the things we talked about a lot was food, naturally.  When Aaron shared that lentil soup was one of his least favorite things to eat, Afa had to counter it with “but you clearly have not had a good one yet!”. From that, we spent years making lentil soup with Turkish red lentils (a version of the Turkish traditional “mercumek corbasi”), and in fact, Aaron became quite the lead chef on this dish for some period of time (no longer true, Afa has usurped that element).  During those years, we listen to some traditional reggae, and in fact thought of the late nineties/early 2000 having that unofficial soundtrack to our lives.  With that, we give you a Bob Marley classic, which to us depicts the irony of “emancipating” oneself from the memories of unpleasant tastes and discovering the new in the old by altering a few ingredients and adding music.  One might say there might be a metaphor for life in this?  Perhaps, and either way, we hope you enjoy a comfort food staple!


  • 2 C red lentils
  • 8 C cold water
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T Salt
  • 1 t ground pepper
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t turmeric
  • 2 t lemon powder
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 small tomato, chopped, with skin removed
  • 1 T sumac for garnish
  • 2 T fresh cilantro, chopped for garnish


  1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to boil.
  2. Wash and rinse the lentils very thoroughly, with cold water.  Drain and set aside.
  3. Into the boiling water, add the salt, pepper and the lentil.  Boil on medium heat for about 30-40 minutes, until quite soft and completely cooked through .
  4. In a shallow pan, gently sauté the onion, garlic, the core spices.  When translucent, add the tomato, chopped finely.  Make this mixture as wholesome as possible.
  5. Add the mixture to the lentils, stir and mix thoroughly.
  6. Optional: push the entire mixture, including the lentils, through a fine colander, to give it a “crushed” feel relative to the texture.

Lentil Soup and Liver (by Aaron Dworkin)

Too many times,
When I was just a kid
I’d have to rid my plate of hateful meat
That smelled worse than pork rinds.
Too often,
My bowl with greenish goo
Brought me to tears, if only I didn’t fear
Having to sop it with a roll.
Twice a week or more,
My nose or palate was faced
With dinner without grace or ways to enjoy,
Desirable nourishment to seek.
I know we were poor,
But at the store I could find better food
While blindfolded and minding the price
Marked down, discounts to show.
But mother insisted I had to finish
With populations starving, Ethiopian relations
Kept my spoon and knife carving up the cartoon supper
I wished was meant for another.
I quiver just from the memories,
Must parents with degrees make such foul culinary choices,
Where are the children’s voices when this group loops
The formidable forces of lentil soup and liver?

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