MEMORIES OF THE FAIR, FLORIDA AND FLANKEN SOUP

Submitted by Jackie Dickman

 Florida Boyd

Florida Boyd

These are my childhood memories of the State Fair in the early 60’s. That was when the fairgrounds were covered in saw dust, there were girlie and freak shows, live mice in the lucky numbers game, and fairgoers often were loud and rowdy after sundown. That did not keep me with my sisters and friends from having free rein at the fair—meeting at the rocket if we got separated. 

The B’nai B’rith Women’s fair booth with homemade Jewish food was a major operation and a real Jewish community affair. This was their big fund-raiser for the year. It was a favorite among fairgoers who enjoyed sitting down to a good corned beef or pastrami sandwich or a Kosher hot dog. For the carnival workers who travelled with the fair, the B’nai B’rith Women’s booth was a place to get a good hot home cooked meal on a cold fair night. I remember the experience of watching these men who led hard lives. It was not what I was used to seeing.

Since my dad Max Dickman was a great cook, who happened to own a scrap metals business next to the fair, and my mother Selma Dickman was very active in B’nai B’rith Women, serving as President and chair of the BBW booth for several years, fair week was a very busy time in our family. But it was Florida who was the outstanding member of the fair booth preparation task force. Florida Boyd was my family’s long time house keeper, cook, extra mama, friend and family member. If you grew up Jewish in Columbia in our day, you knew Florida. She prepared amazing Jewish and Southern dishes. Florida “catered” many Passover and Break the Fast meals at the Tree of Life Temple and was the “go to” for brit milah celebrations. That is a story for another day. 

Florida was a mainstay at the fair.   One of the dishes especially enjoyed by the traveling carnival workers was Florida’s flanken (beef short ribs) and barley soup. It was thick and hot and delicious. I do not have her recipe. In fact, Florida would not have had a recipe. We do have the pots!

 Soup pot used by the Dickman family at the fair in 1960s.

Soup pot used by the Dickman family at the fair in 1960s.

Although I do not have her recipe, I know this hearty soup was made with cellophane tubes of Manischewitz soup mix to start, with added carrots, celery, onions, maybe potatoes and powdered garlic, and of course short ribs.  So I have scoured the internet and combined several entries to come up with an approximation of Florida’s delicious flanken soup. And now I am motivated to prepare this soup for a cold winter night and think of the fair, my parents and Florida.  Dad and Florida also made pots of whole cow tongues for the fair, but I’ll try not to think about that.

FLANKEN and BARLEY SOUP (8 servings)

  • In a large pot, cover 8 pieces (about 3 lbs.) of flanken (beef short ribs with bone in) with water; bring to boil for 2 minutes; then change water to the full amount (4 quarts).
  • Bring water with flanken to a boil then simmer covered for 1 hour.
  • Add Manischewitz soup mixes (not the enclosed season packets)-one tube lima beans & barley and one tube split pea & barley. 
  • Add chopped carrots, celery and onions, potatoes (at least 1 cup each).
  • Simmer covered another hour.
  • Mix in contents of seasoning packets, a few bay leaves, and garlic powder, salt or pepper if needed—simmer covered for 15 minutes.
  • As cooking, stir occasionally and thoroughly, and add water if needed. And may need more or less cooking time.
  • These are typical Florida instructions. If you want a more specific recipe, consult the internet or a traditional Jewish Cookbook. 

PS. The end of the B’nai B’rith Women’s fair booth was due in part to an improved life style of carnival employees, and in large part due to stricter regulation of off-premises preparation of foods served at fairs and festivals.