Saturday, November 27, 2010

Musings Over a Pot of Soup

I do love a step back in time to where the pace was slower and food heartier. The image of ladies with their full, floor length skirts covered with large white aprons bending over a pot bubbling on a cheery, wood burning stove to smell the delicate aroma rising therein comes to mind But as I was culling through a stewed chicken to make my Chicken Soup from Scratch I realized there isn't really anything romantically charming about the process at all. In fact, it's rather messy and more than just bit yucky.
When we think of the Victorian Era I think most of us think of the elegance and charm of a higher class lady. The one that had a cook to see to the meals and at least one servant to assist with the rigors of daily living. One certainly doesn't usually think of the lady with her sleeves rolled up to the elbow fishing through a pile of aromatics and chicken parts for choice bits of meat to set aside for the soup. And yet we know that someone must have.

My mother was born the year the Great Depression began and there was nothing romantic about that at all. She never knew anything but labor and although she was required to wear dresses she wasn't spared from working in the fields of my grandparents farm based on her gender. She could toss hay, till a field and milk a cow just as well as make enough bread to last a family of eight for a week, fix an entire dinner for the family using a wood stove and do the wash with nothing more than her hands and two large tubs.
It was from a childhood standing at her side that I learned most of my cooking skills. There were never any formal lessons given, just the constant repetition, gentle instructions and corrections
I learned to cook as she had, to use what was available in the pantry and never let anything go to waste. What could be eaten was eaten and what couldn't went back to the earth to fortify it for a new harvest.

Now all of us know that there is nothing more delicious and satisfying as a bowl of hot soup made from scratch. They may try, but the cans just can't capture the nuances of flavor that a pot simmering over the course of the day has. My daughter love soup, and we do occasionally purchase it in cans for simplicity sake, but that is nothing more than sustenance for the stomach. When I make soup from scratch is becomes food for the soul as well.
Today my lovely young Miss. arrived home from a night of sledding and sleepover to the aroma of chicken and aromatics simmering for the stock. She paused, deeply inhaled then gleefully asked "Soup?" A nod from me was all it took to bring her into the kitchen , coat still on to stand over the pot inhaling blissfully.
Through the course of the day as I've gone in to stir or chop she's been close at hand proclaiming how happy she is to be having soup. I'm so glad that I can create something that makes her so happy and is so good for her at the same time.

Chicken Soup from Scratch

4 qt chicken stock
2 cups chopped chicken
1lb carrots
6 stalks celery including leafy bits
1 large turnip
2 medium onions
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp finely grated, fresh ginger*
1 tbsp chicken bullion
1/4 cup fish sauce*
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar*
freshly ground pepper & kosher salt to taste

Chop the vegetables to a uniform size, leave three cloves of garlic whole and finely chop the 4th and place all ingredients in a large stock pot. Set to simmer until vegetables are just tender. Serve with warm rolls slathered with herb butter.

*The ginger, fish sauce and rice wine vinegar are new to this recipe because the original plan was to make pho. It's not enough to give a distinctive Asian flavor but turned out so good that I've decided to keep them.

ETA: The soup was a hit! We all had seconds and there's enough for lunch tomorrow. Thanks so much for reading and take care.

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