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Soup’s on!

April 3, 2010

Crossposted here and here.

Yesterday, I ran across a photo that made me start drooling:

pot of yummy-looking vegetable soup

That came from Snowy Days & Great Food, at an excellent photo blog with some great nature shots by Bryant Altizer, a professional photographer back home. I only just discovered it.*

Great food is right! That got me craving a big pot of soup. Then sanity struck, and I scaled it down to a 3.5L crock pot load, with only two people here to eat it. 😉

I have been holding off on the soups and stews–since (Swedish) Nigel obviously doesn’t think most of them qualify as “great food”!–but couldn’t resist the craving. I grew up eating a lot of soup and stew, chock full of veggies; either he didn’t, or he got really tired of them.

Yeah, looking at the ingredients and who was making it, I figured it was probably Indian soup, but as Cliff Lowe (coming from a similar background) put it in an article on the prevalence of Native-derived food in the South:

She used to make a rich vegetable soup that she called (can you believe it?) Vegetable Soup. Imagine my surprise when, years later, I came across her same recipe in a cookbook about Native American cooking and found that all those years I had been eating ‘Cherokee Pepper Pot Soup.’

Here’s some more interesting food writing from Cliff Lowe, BTW. I can totally see Texas chili as the kind of stew a Mexican cook might make if given a bunch of pemmican to work with.

My mom mostly just called it Soup. Yeah, we ate lots of other kinds of soups, but something like that was the Generic “I’m going to make a big pot of” Soup, and we had it at least a couple of times a month. (Usually for a couple of days, until I was thoroughly sick of it!) If we had a lot of leftover and stray odds and ends of vegetables to use up, I started calling it Garbage Soup–which didn’t greatly thrill my mother. 😉 We ate it even more often when we were particularly low on money.

It’s cheap to make (especially if you have a garden and/or the time and inclination to hunt or snare rabbits), tasty, and nutritious. Did I mention tasty?

If you eat this kind of thing on a regular basis, it would be very hard indeed to avoid your 5-9 daily servings of veggies and fruits! I feel Deprived at Five. And, BTW, under normal circumstances, it really does not matter how much salt you eat; you’re getting more than enough potassium from all those veggies to balance it out, unless you regularly go around munching on rock salt for a snack. And I think again of Rita Laws’ Native Americans and Vegetarianism, which overstates things AFAICT (bottom of the page), but makes some good points about just how much fruit and veggies people were/are eating a lot of places.

You can use basically anything you’ve got in there: any kind of meat, or none; any veggies you’ve got around, whatever. It’s still Soup. We’ve even thrown in some leftover spaghetti sauce on occasion. Our version is not so much about the peppers (though some are nice), but you’ve got to have corn, green beans, potatoes, onion, celery, and tomatoes. Carrots are good, but you can use the more original chunks of winter squash or sweet potato instead–though not the latter, if I’m going to be eating it! Some other beans are a good addition, especially with a vegetarian version or if you don’t have much meat left to add back in.

If you make it thicker, you’ve got Stew. Brunswick Stew is a good example, “typical of early native dishes.”# In the Virginian explanation of the stew’s 19th Century “invention”, it’s no wonder a slave would cook up that kind of food, to feed a lot of people at short notice, BTW. It’s also no wonder that this novelty (to them) got appropriated under a name like that!

Both are good with cornbread (no sugar, please no!), or you can throw corn dumplings in the pot. You can make those like corn pone (I’d use butter or bacon grease), but formed into balls or ovals and boiled instead of fried. In either case, let them cool for at least 15 minutes before eating, both so you won’t burn your mouth and to let the texture develop.

Tonight I’m not going to push my luck with the dumplings, out of concern that Nigel might want to cry. 😉

My pot of soup

Today’s pot of still-simmering soup, before the chicken’s gone in. I am not a photographer. 😉

This batch of soup is made out of a chicken carcass, which I put in the crock pot overnight to make broth.** That left about half the broth to freeze for later use, so I could fit other stuff in the crock. We had a lot of leftover meat, which is waiting to go in the pot when it’s about finished.

The vegetables in this batch: 2 onions, 3 stalks of celery, about 1/4 of a big green pepper (would use more, but, again, Nigel), 2 big carrots. I cooked this until it looked almost done then added 2 big potatoes and about 1/8 of a small cabbage which has been hanging out in the fridge for a week. When that looked almost done, I threw in a can of corn, a can of green beans, and a can of chopped tomatoes (which will keep the other stuff from overcooking as it simmers more). It also has some dried garlic chips (easy and not too bad!), a bay leaf, crushed red pepper, black pepper, celery salt to supplement the sea salt, and some mixed herbs.

I’m planning to add some leftover cooked broccoli to my bowl, since it doesn’t hold up too well in the main pot of soup. Especially if you reheat it after adding the broccoli or cauliflower, the whole pot will go all overcooked brassica sulphurous. Ick.

The whole house smells really good–as crock pots will do, anyway–and I’m having trouble waiting for supper. 🙂

Making the soup today, I couldn’t help but be glad again for the year-round availability of canned and frozen veggies! (Cheaper, frequently better quality, and not as generally problematic as a lot of out-of-season fresh stuff.) Especially since I don’t have room for a garden right now. It saves a lot of hassle, and makes it possible for me to have closer to a summer version of this kind of soup in April.

Before that, I guess people had to use leather britches or (brine) pickled green beans, dry hominy or pickled corn, dried tomatoes, dried beans instead of fresh shelled beans, and so on. Food you’ve grown and preserved yourself certainly has its appeal, but being able to buy a can or frozen bag of green beans sure is easier!

I may have to start working on my food and recipe pages again. (That’s not even up now, at all, along with the rest of my old website.) Not only is that kind of thing fun, I feel an urge to demonstrate that we Hillbillies do, indeed, have a food culture–which does not involve much in the way of roadkill. When even the origins of many dishes have been obfuscated, there’s a lot of ignorance going on, and some people might be interested in finding out more. The acceptable level of ignorance and bigotry*** (not to mention exoticizing and condescension) still amazes me.


* And was laughing my ass off at Friendly Dog or Guard Dog – Which is it? earlier. OK, sometimes strange things strike me as hilarious. Either way, I felt sorry for that dog!

** I bought a “Freedom Food” chicken (still not up to my specs) specifically for this purpose, and last night’s roast chicken dinner was a bonus. 🙂 Yeah, my ethical veggie commitment crashed rather spectacularly, under some (hopefully temporary) needs for lots of protein and less starchy stuff. I just was not feeling good, and was healing injuries and recoving from even a cold very poorly. Given the choice between consuming my own muscles and, say, those of a chicken, the poor old chicken is in trouble.


Perhaps its appeal comes in that (at least in my imagination) it seems to be such an un-American part of America: poor, backwards, even third-worldish. That areas like Appalachia could exist in the might U.S. of A. appeal to my ironic side.

That sounds an awful lot like Amanda Palmer’s ironic side. Bleh.

We also consistently get referred to in the past tense.

The strawberry dumplings are also Europeanized-ingredient indigenous food (that’s really good made with blackberries!). As are corny fish cakes.

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