Split pea soup is just what you need when the chill goes right through your coat. In the port city of Hamburg last month, it was sunny but cold as I walked through the Isestrasse market in the center of town. German markets in winter boast stands brimming with every variety of cabbage and potato imaginable. There are mobile bakeries, butchers, fishmongers, sausage sellers, and among them, all kinds of eateries. These hearty folks aren't fair-weather vendors, I decided, so I wandered around until I found lunch. I wanted what two bundled up ladies were eating: big bowlfuls of steaming split pea soup laden with plenty of slices of knockwurst in the thick porridge.
I approached the counter and used my sparse knowledge of Yiddish to ask for a bowl. That produced lots of laughing from the beefy proprietor, but no soup. I wanted soup and I was sure he would sell me some, if only he understood what I was after. I knew I shouldn't point, but point I did - at the women and their lunch.
Success. I took my bowl and settled in beside them, standing in the bracing cold coming off the Baltic Sea, with my bowl set in front of me on a high bistro table. I sipped spoonfuls of the thick, nourishing mixture. The green puree, with its hammy stock and smoked wurst, also had nuggets of sweet carrots. A piece of crusty bread helped soak up every last bit. - DEBRA SAMUELS