Really, really good soup

👤Charlynn Toews 🕔Apr 02, 2014

Don’t feel bad when barbecue season is delayed or interrupted by cold, wet weather. Use the opportunity to make homemade chicken noodle soup.

My kid’s girlfriend, a quiet and reserved young lady, recently enthused about my soup. She said, “Thank you very, very much!” as she helped herself to seconds. I was ecstatic!

Later, I asked my son, “What was it about the soup that made it so good?” I wanted to know exactly why she liked so much. “She said,” he reported, “the spices in the broth were perfectly balanced.”

Wow! High praise! But what did I do, exactly? I must retrace my steps of that really, really good soup or that pot may be the last of its kind, never to be created again.

Begin by finding a man who likes to cook, and marry him. Hubby had to go out of town to work for a few weeks, so on the Sunday before he left, in addition to making us all supper, he stuffed and roasted not one but two chickens to help tide us over. It was the leftovers of Chicken Number Two that went into that soup. Prep time: 26 years.

I am a foodie—I love watching cooking shows and googling ingredients and wondering about foie gras. I enjoy cooking, but I can’t call myself a Good Cook. (In fact, many years ago, my son asked me to please stop baking—it just wasn’t working out. Thus my ecstasy at getting that compliment from the quiet girl.) I have been cooking enthusiastically and with gusto and much bad luck since I was in my earliest 20s, but until last November I had never bought or used cumin.

Imagine, all those pots of chili, year after year, countless Grey Cup parties and I didn’t add the umami-inducing spice. Discover cumin: prep time exactly 32.5 years.

Discover the trinity of aromatics, mirepoix—say it: “meer-pwah.” It’s fun! This combination of chopped carrots, celery and onions adds flavour and aroma to stocks, sauces and soups. The proportions are 50 percent onions, 25 percent carrots and 25 percent celery. OK, I always had an onion or two ready to be chopped up and thrown in, but the carrot’s sweetness and the celery’s naturally occurring sodium nitrate (umami again) and acidity make for the trio’s popularity around the world. Prep time: 34 years. Oh, I know, I know—I am slow on the uptake!

Hmmm, and that duck stock certainly improved the flavour. Marry a man who gets along great with his mother who raised ducks and geese on their hobby farm when he was growing up and comes over for duck dinner often. Prep time: let’s give that about 50 years to simmer.

As a young adult working in Winnipeg, I tasted the soup in a trendy new restaurant and immediately surmised the chef-owner, like me, was of Mennonite extraction with roots in a small town. I asked him, and he admitted it readily, but how did I know?

It was the borscht, you see. Made with cabbage (never beets—beets are Ukrainian) and the necessary and dynamic duo of dill and bay leaves. You see, I have the soup gene, inherited from my mother. I don’t recall her actually teaching me to make soup, but I can make soup, and I always put in dill and bay leaves.

Since my mother just turned 80, and it is her genes I inherited to make really, really good soup, I’ll have to revise my preparation time for this recipe again: 80 years.