Does anyone else hear a report of incoming cold and wet weather and instinctively think, I’ve got to get a pot of soup started? Well, that was me this morning. I knew we had rain expected, but my husband has a super-specific-to-our-zip-code-weather app that said snow was expected at 6800 feet and we live at 7300 feet elevation. Since we’ve only had only a scant bit of rain so far this year, our area is due for some moisture. Many of you may have snow falling already, and others may look through a nearby window and see blinding sunlight. But no matter the weather, soup is a great meal choice.
As I chopped potatoes, celery, carrots, asparagus and leeks to pile into the crock pot, I couldn’t help thinking of pioneers and frontier families and how the women might have prepared for bad weather. Of course, they wouldn’t have a 72-hour warning that a storm would hit on Friday but be gone by Saturday. I have no clue of how skilled people were at watching the behavior of wild animals. Did they do something different to indicate a coming storm, like they do in advance of a prairie or forest fire. I’d assume in winter most would be burrowed in their dens. So, pioneers had to use other signs like horses and cattle huddling together, ice on the water bucket, rigid ropes. And everyone knows when gloves are needed and the regular winter coat isn’t keeping out the chilled air well enough.
In research for my historical stories, I’ve read journal accounts where a pot of soup or stew was kept over the fire all the time. When times were good, the smell of roasting meat would fill the air. When times were lean, maybe the scent was of earthy simmering root vegetables. Anyone remember the children’s book Stone Soup? Great lesson on everyone pitching in for the good of the group. Soup is forgiving—the recipe can be only a couple ingredients like stock and pureed squash, or you can toss in leftovers from the previous week’s meals. The ingredients really don’t matter much—what matters is the instinct to prepare something warm to combat the cold outside. For anyone who’s interested, here’s a recipe for the soup I created right before I sat down to write this post.
8 cups stock (now that we’re vegan, I use vegetarian stock, but you could use 2 bouillon cubes of any type)
3 large potatoes, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced (I also chop the leaves and toss them in)
3 leeks, cut once lengthwise (white part only) then sliced (1 large diced onion could be substituted)
3 carrots, peeled and diced
12 asparagus stub ends, diced (bottom 3-4 inches, peeled. These were saved from an earlier meal where I served the top 5-6” of the spear)
1 tsp each marjoram, dill seed, caraway seed + ½ tsp paprika
Cook on high heat in crock pot for 5-6 hours until vegetables are tender. Right before serving, add 2 tsp of dried (or 1 T fresh) parsley. Scoop out 1 cup of broth and mix with ¾-1-1/4 cup dried milk powder (I use blender. For vegans, use ½ cake tofu or tear up 3 slices of crustless white or sourdough bread into 1” pieces) and then add back to pot and stir well. Makes at least 10 servings. I like to serve with fresh oatmeal or wheat muffins and a plate of cut-up fruit.
My family has often commented on how good soup smells as it’s cooking (I swear men love the scent of onions cooking or frying), and I notice how we linger around the table when soup is served. No matter what holiday you celebrate this month, consider including a big pot of soup on your menu.
Linda’s latest release is a western historical novella titled Dulcina, Book 5 in The Widows of Wildcat Ridge multi-author series.
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