LONGLEAF STORIES

full circle in the hundred acre wood

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love soup and those whose noses wrinkle up in disdain at the mention of it. Or maybe not disdain. It might be post-traumatic childhood soup disorder, brought on by too many mugs of chicken noodle or cream of tomato out of a can from busy, well-intentioned parents.

Some of us are positively evangelical about the heart and soul-warming, body healing more than the sum of its parts benefits of a good, homemade soup.

Want to guess which camp I’m in?

Now, I’m not talking about that stuff in a can, that oversalted gloppy stuff where, if there are identifiable veggies, they are machine cut and processed into tasteless, corrupted icons. Having trashed canned soup, I had better confess up front to a love of canned cream of tomato made with milk and dusted with cinnamon — for me, it’s one of the ultimate comfort foods. I’m an imperfect perfectionist, an impure purist.

A cold front was blowing in yesterday, and for all of you who think of warm South Beach when you think of Florida, here in the panhandle we were expecting 23 cold degrees last night. Just the right time for a big pot of soup.

While it was cooking, I talked on the phone to my younger brother, my favorite niece, and several friends. Then I made meatballs (full of garlic, parmesan and parsley) for Friday night’s Christmas Eve bash. They’re in the freezer now, ready to plop into some red sauce to go along with the pesto lasagna. Sharon’s bringing the salad and Adele a shrimp appetizer.

It was a fun afternoon, chopping, simmering, rolling little meatballs, and talking with friends. The soup is vegetable beef (we call it Red Soup) and here’s the preparation:

Serenity of Soup-2 This particular pot of soup is Vegetable Beef, but for non-carnivores, I think it would be excellent without it, just substituting vegetable broth and maybe sweating the onions, carrots, and celery in a tiny bit of olive oil to deepen the flavors before adding the broth. The meat here is a chuck roast. I put in the pot with water, a chopped carrot, onion and celery, a couple of bay leaves and grind in a generous amount of black pepper. I add a tiny amount of salt, maybe a teaspoon full.

Serenity of Soup-4 I had a small epiphany and squeezed a clove of garlic along with a good-sized piece of ginger root through the garlic press and added the juicy bits to the soup pot. When they hit the steaming broth, the heady ginger garlic scent set my smile for the afternoon.

The beef broth simmered for about an hour and a half or so. Then I took out the beef, cut it into smaller chunks, and returned it to the cauldron, along with several more sliced carrots, a chopped onion, sliced celery and diced turnip root (it was a really big, crisp one). To fill out the flavors, I added a large can of diced tomatoes, plus several cups of chicken and beef broth. When the liquid came back to a boil, I added a bag of frozen corn, a bag of frozen baby lima beans, and a bag of frozen cut okra (don’t make a face — it’s a southern thang). Finally, after the whole lovely mess simmers to tenderness, break up some pasta strands into thirds — I use spaghetti — and add them to the pot. Continue to simmer for another ten minutes, and it’s soup.1-IMG_0854 Oops, I forgot to mention to include some fresh green beans. You can see them floating on top there.

And best of all, it freezes like a dream. It gives me a sense of serenity to open the freezer and see those little containers, standing ready to assist me in a moment of need, when I’m cold, tired and hungry.

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