A Gift for the Season — Day 1

Image from tasteofhome.com


This yummy recipe for vegetable soup is sure to cure whatever ails you from the common cold to a lousy mood. Simple, flexible, and easy. From my cookbook, Recipes of Trailside Cafe & Tea Room.

Vegetable Soup

1 large onion, chopped small (1 ½ cups)

4 ribs celery including leaves if possible, chopped small (1 ½ cups)

2-3 carrots, chopped small (1 ½ cups)

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 15-ounce can petite dice tomatoes

1 ½ teaspoons sugar

1 ½ quarts water

2 baby yellow squash (or 1 medium size), bad skin areas and seeds removed, ½ inch dice

½ tablespoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

2 large potatoes, ½ inch dice

❧ Heat large soup pan, add oil, sauté onion, celery, and carrot over high heat until they start to soften (about 10 minutes).

❧ Add garlic, stir briefly, add tomatoes. Stir to heat through.

❧ Add squash, water, sugar, salt, pepper.

❧ Heat to boil, cover, reduce heat to gentle simmer for about 1 hour.

❧ Add potato, cover, increase heat until bubbling, immediately reduce to very low heat so mixture barely simmers. Cover and cook until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Too long or too hot cook time will cause potatoes to break down and broth will be milky.

❧ Taste for seasoning, add salt if needed.

Options: Use leftover cooked vegetables such as lima beans, English peas, green beans, or corn in addition to or instead of the squash.

Lingering Winter

soupAroma thick with thyme and marjoram steams from the simmering split pea soup. I’ve enjoyed the whole process—chopping onion, celery, and carrot, measuring the spices and selecting the bay leaves, stirring until the soupy mass starts to bubble and boil. More condensation to collect on the window panes where sleet bounces and taps it rhythm against the other side.

There’ll be no venturing out today. The roads are slick with ice. Time to relax and accept what the Mother has in store, a lingering blast of winter with all its gifts of cold and white. Wind whistling at the chimney where smoke of my wood fire plumes sideways. Time to muse on past winter days when fire blazed hot and pan lids jiggled, when my gaze settled on the distance and roamed over the years of my life.

Memories of winter’s challenges rise up to nourish me on these days, recollections of times when hardships were met and I was satisfied with my refuge, my larder, my conquest of the elements. In more distant times, I might have twisted strands of wool or linen and watched the wheel spin it to thread, or pounded clothes in a hot kettle for cleaning, or ground corn between stones to make coarse bread. I might have wrapped my children in animal skins and tied my own feet in fur before braving the cold for more wood, or brought the livestock into the other end of a rough cabin to keep them from freezing in the long nights.

How did I, of all my previous iterations, manage to occur here, now, where everything I need comes more or less effortlessly—the twist of a knob, click of a button, the turn of a key? A house with insulated walls and thick glass that keep in the warmth and allow me to watch frozen rain fall from gray-white clouds. What future embodiments of myself will wonder back on this time and what will they know? What I don’t know. What I can imagine for better. Or worse.

I don’t have to figure it out. Anyway, I can’t. Better to turn to the pan and stir the soup, add another log to the fire, stand at the window longer and marvel at the shades of gray and rust among the trees of the woods, the white of the sky and ground. Soon the scene will explode in infinite shades of green and heat will soak the edges. I’ll be pleased then to remember this cold.