Friday, November 22, 2013

Fantastic Meals. Number 95 of the Top 100 (Mostly Southern) Meals and Side Dishes of all Time

Fantastic Meals. Number 95 of the Top 100 (Mostly Southern) Meals and Side Dishes of All Time.

Number 95

A-Plus Soup

            If you were to ask me if I considered myself a soup lover, I would tell you “No” without even thinking about it. Isn’t it strange how I can tell a lie so easily; how I can fool myself into thinking things about the way I act that have no bearing on reality? I mean—I must be the Grand Marshall of Liars, for why else would I tell people—those both close to me and strangers—that I detest soups, stews, and their ilk? All one has to do to prove I'm a liar is take a peek at my final list of Top 100 Meals and Side Dishes. Not only are sixteen of the meals soups or stews, my Number One is a stew. In fact, the Top three out of five are soups or stews. I am living a lie. And, worse, I’ve lived this lie about soups my entire life.
            A case in point.
            When Linda and I married, about 25 years ago, we both had two children, and cooking meals was going to be a chore for someone in our new family—a big one. Well, like most men, I was not eager to take on this chore. It would interrupt my down time after work, my beer time, my watch-the-news-and-get-angry time. Plus, I’d been cooking meals for myself and my two sons for several years, and knew well the pitfalls of being the Head Family Chef. No matter what the Head Chef prepared, there would always be at least one in the family who detested it. And it was a known Law of Families, that if the Chef tried to put together a so-called Healthy Meal, all would detest it—perhaps even the Chef, himself.
            Linda, anxious to be the Best Mother and Homemaker she could, even though she had a more-than-full-time-job as a teacher, was crazy enough to volunteer as our Head Chef. Hell. I let her. Sure, I enjoyed cooking; in fact, I used my cooking skills as a way to woo her into marriage. A single mom with two kids who doesn’t have to cook every night because the guy she’s dating does it for her once or twice a week is an easy mark. Pay attention, all you guys out there looking for a wife.
            So . . . we anointed Linda as the family’s Head Cook. And now things became a bit sticky-wickity, to borrow and corrupt an Englishman’s phraseology. We had stews. Mostly, I think, beef stews. Looking back, it seemed as if all we ever had were beef stews—beef stews and cornbread; for my new wife was a cornbread lover, and her former husband was a cornbread lover, too. So, naturally, Linda expected all Southern Men to love cornbread. After what seemed like several weeks of endless stews and cornbread, I could take no more. I told Linda I didn’t really like cornbread—I preferred rolls, and didn’t really want rolls more than once or twice a year. I didn’t require bread with my meals. I still don’t, though I do love sandwiches. I also mentioned how I didn’t like soups or stews. I didn’t use the word hate, but did consider it. I explained to her that I preferred my meat and vegetables separate, because I liked to eat them one at a time. And, in truth, this is the way I like to eat most of the time. If you watch me, you’ll see that I attack one food type on my plate at a time. I tell myself it’s because I love vegetables so much that I wish to savor their individual tastes, and this is a fact. I do love all vegetables, and I do love to savor their tastes one at a time. But this is only part of the truth, because I also, unbeknown to myself, love their tastes when mixed.
            To make a long story short (I’ll continue this story later. I call it, “How to Make Your Wife so Mad She . . .”), I became the Head Cook. I realized that unless I wanted to spend the rest of my life eating beef stew and cornbread, I would have to shoulder the responsibility of being the family cook. It wasn’t easy, but I thoroughly loved it. Linda says—although she may only say it to make me feel good—that she was happy and relieved for me to take over as our family cook. And, whether she was lying or not, I immersed myself into one of my life’s passions—cooking. Even cooking soups.
            So here is one of my favorite meals—A-Plus Soup. I call it this because of all the vitamin A in it. I have to admit that the base for the soup came from a Mark Bittman recipe, “Curried Sweet Potato Soup with Apricots,” a splendid recipe if there ever was one. I encourage you to try his version, as well as mine.
A-Plus Soup.

1 tbs. butter
2 tbs. cooking oil (I use a canola-olive-grapeseed blend)
2 tsp. - 1 tbs. Hot Madras curry powder (Be careful. The tbs. amount will be HOT)
1 tsp turmeric (This is an ingredient in curry—an ingredient that’s supposed to be
            good for us. As you’ll see, this is a recipe where I’m going for “healthy.”)
1 sweet potato—cut up, but unpeeled. (I don’t peel any of my potatoes—sweet or
            white. I believe, as we’ve been told, that the peels have most of the vitamins,
2 carrots, cut up
1 bag apricots (6 oz.)
2 tsp. – 1 tbs. Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning (Once again—be careful.
            The larger amount may be too hot for some people.)
1 large container chicken broth (32 oz.)
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
2 cups (more or less) water
1 can (14.5 oz.) chicken broth

            Still living with the lie that I don’t like soups, I tell myself that if I’m going to make and eat a soup, I’m going to make it a health food. Hey—I love this soup. I even drink it cold.

Melt butter in a large pot and add oil, curry, turmeric, sweet potato, and carrots. Keep the heat medium-high. Push the veggies around in the mixture for about a minute, letting them get coated with the spices, turning slightly gummy. Isn’t this fun? The scent is divine. To me. I love Indian-curry-scented foods.
Add the apricots, Tony C., and large container of chicken broth. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat. Cook 30 minutes. Add pumpkin and two cups water and extra can of chicken broth (you may use any mixture of water or broth you wish. It’s up to you. I really like three cans of broth, but usually don’t have that much on hand. Plus, I don’t buy “Less Salt” broth, so sometimes it’s a bit too salty for me.)
Mixture should be cool enough (if not, wait) to put in blender, a third at a time, and thoroughly blend.
Pour back into pot, warm if too cool, and enjoy. For me, it’s at just the right temperature when it comes out of the blender. For Linda, it needs heating up. Linda not only loves soups, she loves them hot, temperature-wise. Me—hell—I detest soups whether they’re hot or cold. Just ask me. 

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