Friday, January 1, 2016
It’s fitting that January follows the hustle and stress of Christmas. Call me odd but January’s my favorite month of the year. It’s always been my favorite. When I was little, it was the mounds of snow that intrigued me. It didn’t matter how cold it was, my cousins and I would stay outside making snow houses and castles and forts. Now when January rolls around, the art of soup-making intrigues me. Drawing me to the kitchen which is not where I normally prefer to create. I didn’t come by this soup thing on my own. It’s in the genes. And it is an art. Add a loaf of bread and a salad and January gets even better.
Along with donuts and breads, French goulash and everything else in between, my grandmother was the original soup guru. Anything leftover became soup for the next day. When you farm the land and you’re raising six daughters, there’s nothing called waste. Instead of following recipes, my grandmother followed her intuition with the season of the year determining which vegetables might be added to the boiling brew. Void of any additives or extracts or artificial this-and-that, freshness was a given. I’m convinced that’s the reason why so many lived long and healthy lives back then.
My mother was known for her witch’s brew. This favorite soup wasn’t served just around Halloween but all through fall and straight through March or April depending on the weather. The thought of that broth slowly cooking on top of the stove with snow softly falling makes the realization that it’s January quite exciting.
Making the brew was an all day event or maybe it just seemed that way. Anticipation has a way of doing that when you’re young. After cutting up the carrots and onions just so, my mother would add the seasonings including bouillon cubes. She loved bouillon cubes. Kept cans of them in a drawer next to the stove. She’d often boil a cup of water. Then throw in some cubes and drink it like a cup of tea.
There was no certain recipe followed. Sometimes tomatoes would be added. Sometimes she’d cut up a green pepper or dice chicken into small pieces or make tiny meatballs dressed in garlic and bread crumbs. While whatever made up a particular version may have varied, there was one constant-one ingredient never left out and that was acini d’pepe. Those little round bits of pasta were the icing on the cake or in this case-the finishing touch of a homemade soup which I now create. Cutting up the carrots and onions just so. Adding the seasonings including bouillon cubes and then going to the refrigerator to see what else I might add before stirring in those tiny bits of pasta.
This so-called brew holds memories of family gathering. Of being in a place of warmth and contentment while outside the wind would howl and the snow would grow into giant mounds-perfect for kids to roll in or slide down or pack into balls after having their bowl of witch’s brew on any given January day.
(Photo shows my grandmother's woodstove in her farmhouse kitchen. Most likely that is a pot of soup brewing).