Kitchen Garden Writing

Soup for the Polar Vortex

Vegetable Soup on a Wintry Day

Monday I made a big pot of vegetable soup using what has become a standard process.

Mirepoix of onion, celery, carrot and salt sautéed in a couple tablespoons of vegetable broth.

Potatoes peeled and cut in large chunks, a 15 ounce can of rinsed, prepared beans, a pint of diced tomatoes, a quarter cup of barley, a half cup of dried lentils, a few bay leaves, two cups frozen sweet corn, a quart of home made tomato juice and vegetable broth to cover. I added lots of potatoes and carrots for texture and flavor. Toward the end of cooking I added a cup of frozen peas.

The soup cooks up thick and hearty, just the thing for subzero temperatures the polar vortex is bringing our way tonight and tomorrow.

Other soups I make are similar, adding every kind of vegetable we have on hand — after harvest or after cleaning the refrigerator. The limited number of ingredients in this recipe standardizes the outcome into something recognizable and delicious. Importantly, it is repeatable.

Over the weekend I sorted recipes, an act of curation. I found I’m much less attached to dessert recipes. Over the course of a year I make a few batches of cookies, an apple crisp or two, maybe a spiced raisin or applesauce cake. Those recipes are well used and written in my red book. I love dessert, but not that much.

The dessert recipes I kept included blueberry buckle, a seasonal item we serve at the orchard after the first blueberries come in from Michigan. The recipe our bakers use is called “Betty’s Blueberry Buckle,” but the one I have will serve.

While in graduate school I conducted a series of interviews with a subject for a class on aging. She had a letter from William F. Cody inquiring about his legacy in Davenport. I kept her recipe for custard for the memory, although I’m not sure if and when I might use it.

I find it hard to dispose of artifacts of consumption, although about half of the unsorted pile of recipes went into the paper recycling bin. That I got rid of anything is a sign of progress. So many things compete for attention that piles of artifacts, like these recipes, sit around indefinitely.

Winter is a great time to enjoy a bowl of soup and sort through the detritus of a life on the prairie. I look forward to spring.

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