Ah, Gentle Reader, what is it about soup that so stirs the memory and sets the stomach growling?
And not so much the store-bought, high-tech, pureed, made-in-ten-minute, containing-unknown-ingredient-and/or-mystery-protein variety either. Rather the actual, homemade, boring, old-fashioned, cheap meal, filled with identifiable flavours and ingredients, often served with toast – gluten-free an option.
One has rather vivid memories of childhood relating to soup. Being a rather sickly child, one often had cause to consume rather large quantities of said delicious beverage. And not the chicken soup oft recommended, despite its reputation for mending those in ill-health; in our household it was often a rich tomato, with buttered toast soldiers, and possibly a little milk from the house cow to thin it down.
Every meal with boiled vegetables saw the liquid carefully cooled, poured into Agee jars and stored in the nuclear attack-proof refrigerator, humming noisily away in the corner, under the baking cupboards. Whenever a soup or stew was on the horizon, these beautifully coloured liquids would pass from the refrigerator to the soup pan and be blended like a magical potion on the stove-top by one’s mother, awaiting the addition of whatever primary ingredient was to be added.
And then the smell, that thing that so readily flicks the switch of memory, would waft gently through the house, especially on a cold, wet winter’s day, as all the windows would be closed, making one’s stomach growl in anticipation.
Of course, growing up in a family that had themselves grown up during the Great Depression may well have coloured one’s experience. Nothing was to be wasted, and if things were tight, or the store cupboard had grown a trifle bare, soup was a good way to fill people with a nutritious repast that cost little apart from time. Hot summer days meant the soup had more salt – hard work produces a good deal of perspiration and yet nobody seemed to suffer muscle cramps – and probably meat, although vegetables from the home garden played their role in every meal.
Perhaps equally useful was the fact that excess soup can always be frozen, or even bottled as a preserve, which comes as no surprise to anyone who lived though what feels at times to have been rather a Golden Era. One must say that one feels rather sad for the last few crops of young people, who are so used to pre-prepared food that they have lost many of the skills and missed many of the delicious experiences that those a little older shared.
However, the house is, at present, filled with the scent of … chicken and vegetable soup, simmering merrily away on the stovetop, to be ready for dinner at 1700 hours. Toast will be made, and yes, lightly buttered with Fonterra product and dinner will go ahead in a sea of memories old and new.
Carcass of one or two chickens
4 bay leaves
Rosemary, chopped or other fresh herbs
2 carrots, grated
2 to 3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 – 2 onion
1 to 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
In a large pot heat a little oil and brown onion and celery for a few minutes. Add chicken frames and cover with water by 2-3 inches. Add salt to taste, bay leaves and herbs. Add carrots, five handfuls of frozen corn and the celery. Grind some black pepper into the pot, if desired.
Bring to the boil and simmer for one or more (up to five) hours depending on how reduced one wishes to make the contents. Adding chicken stock is certainly permissible to strengthen the flavour, sour cream to enhance the sweetness, and/or a cup or two of white wine to help blend the flavours. Grating two or three potatoes or kumara into the mix will thicken it delightfully.
One remains, as ever, your most obedient servant –
Major Blunder, Officer Commanding, Fifth Waikato Dragoons Regiment, Northern Command, Alf’s Imperial Army. Humour in Uniform. Visit the website here.