Kim Kunasek's Winning Essay: Mom's Ultimate Comfort Food, Pfannkuchensuppe

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To walk into my mom's house around meal prep time is still a joy. She is modest about her talent and has no idea how few people cook as thoughtfully and with as few shortcuts as she does. If you've known my mom for more than a few years, you've had her celery root soup, kohlrabi sliced thin and prepared in a light cream sauce made with the delicate bright green, tender parts of the stem and tiny leaves, creamed savoy cabbage (wirsching), pork shoulder in lentils with braised red cabbage (blaukraut), apple fritters served hot & dusted with cinnamon and sugar (apfelkücherl), Hungarian goulasch over egg noodles, stuffed cabbage (krautwickel), homemade spaetzle noodles, potato salad (always served at room temperature) made with paper cucumber slices, crumbled smoked bacon, and handfuls of fresh parsley, and of course, the best soup ever, pfannkuchensuppe, always garnished with a small handful of freshly chopped chives (still the ultimate comfort food for this first-generation American and, happily, for my 12-year-old daughter).

And now, when she invites our family to her home for a "really easy" dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, here's what we'll get: a finely ground (at home) blend of veal, pork, and beef perfectly seasoned with herbs and some breadcrumbs (that she made from the rock-hard heels of last month's baguettes), browned just a bit, then simmered in a homemade tomato sauce, or just served with egg noodles in brown gravy.

My father, her husband of 50 years, died about two years ago. She cooked like this for him, and she still cooks for herself just about every night. When I stop by unannounced in the late morning, I am comforted by the little table set for one, with a placemat, a cup and saucer, and a plate from breakfast. The rituals matter. When I call to check on her, she often shares with me what she's made for dinner, and even tells me when it was so delicious that she plans to bring me the leftovers. Of course, I never, ever refuse.

Get Kunasek's mom's recipe for "pancake soup" after the jump.

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at