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Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Love Letter to Soup, plus Golden Cornbread

Yesterday was a big day for me. I've been feeling better everyday, and reading about food everyday, and I was just itching for some good hearty soup. It's funny, there are some things I only eat when I'm sick. Campbell's chicken soup and jello are two of these items. After four or five days of eating canned soup, jello, toast and tapioca pudding (I heart Kozy Shack!), I was ready for something toothsome. There hasn't been a good shopping around my house for a while, so I really didn't know what I would find or how it would come out. There's my lunch above. I opined on facebook about soup. One friend suggested marital counseling. But, I tell you, the best soup results from commitment, flexibility and communication. A good soup can't always be planned. There are too many surprises. A good soup does not require hard work, so much as it requires sincere engagement.

The challenge with sharing such a soup is that it has grown, like an organic thing, unrestricted by formula and measurement. I won't be giving you a recipe for this soup, but I will describe it. I will also encourage you to make your own soup, which will surely be different from my own soup.

This soup started with olive oil and diced onion, carrot, celery and a big handful of chopped parsley. Rooting through the fridge revealed leftover steamed kale and half of a big baked sweet potato. I added the kale and peeled the skin from the sweet potato and diced it into the pot. Sweet potato and tomato are a natural pairing. I added a box of diced tomatoes. I really wanted some protein. I added some cubed cooked chicken and about 4 cups of chicken broth.

Taste...add lots of black pepper.
Taste...soup asks for basil from the garden. OK! A big handful of basil ribbons.
Taste...soup asks for nutmeg. Freshly grated nutmeg goes into the pot.
Taste...soup says, "I can become chili." I think, no, not chili. You are more delicate than that.
For warmth, what about cinnamon. Yes!
A bit more nutmeg. A bit more cinnamon.
Soup says, "I can have beans without being chili." Yes, of course. Kidney beans.
Simmer 20 minutes while the cornbread bakes and you are the soup of my dreams. The true soup du jour. The soup that has emerged in time and space to nourish and provide soup love to my Beloved Liquid Earth Body right now. It's soup magic.

Fresh nutmeg. Nothing like it.

This is a sweet Northern cornbread. My Southern Grammy would likely have not made this sweet and she would have likely used bacon grease and a cast iron skillet. This is a basic recipe that can be altered to fit your mood or menu needs. This may have started out on the side of a box somewhere, but I've been making it for so long that I don't even know where the recipe came from and I don't get out a recipe to make it. It's simple as can be.

Golden Cornbread
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup soft butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare an 8 X 8 inch baking pan with butter or non-stick spray.
Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Add the milk, egg and butter and stir to combine. Some lumps are OK. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a thin knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Makes 9 good sized servings.

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