Thanksgiving was but just a week ago, and already I’m craving the soul soothing flavours of a full Thanksgiving dinner. Mom sent us home with little care packets, but those were “gobbled up” (get it, gobbled? as in gobble gobble? *sigh* I know, that’s pretty bad) by Monday last week.
I get the treasure of Thanksgiving dinner… the turkey bones. I get them for several reasons: a) I’m the only one that will fuss with them, and b) I get a primitive thrill listening to the cracking of the bones when I try to fit the carcass into the shape of a Zip-Lock bag to take home with me.
This weekend has been a weekend of soothing my soul. Sometimes my soul gets a bit persnickety and then it kicks me in the shins and says, “Hey Walsh, take care of me”. So I did.
Yesterday I drove out to Seba Beach and enjoyed the autumnal colours along the highway, had a nice visit at our family cemetery for a blessing with a Catholic priest who seemed to be delighted to be in a graveyard so close to Halloween (I thought this was cool). I was impressed I didn’t burst into a cloud of steam worthy of a coal driven locomotive when the holy water was splashed all over my person. Met with family for coffee, sandwiches and carrot cake at “the cabin” afterwards, and am always so happy that it takes about 10 minutes to leave for all the hugs, well wishes and promises to see each other very soon.
Had a terrific drive home with the sun just sinking with five perfect photo opportunities, but by the time I safely pulled over to the side of the highway, found the camera, and got it going, a stupid cloud would destroy the shot.
Today, while my hubby was watching a PVR’d and very, very, very bloody rugby match between New Zealand and Australia for the World Cup semi finals, I made a break for it, and headed to the river valley. I did a spin (spin makes it sound energetic. I am using a cane and stop frequently to turn over leaves when something catches my eye. Today I found a blue unicorn. Seriously. No drugs.) around Queen Elizabeth Park and then settled myself on a park bench that is just high enough to do the physiotherapy I’ve been instructed to do to make my knee work again. While I do this, I am on the phone, and because there’s some people out there who aren’t aware that when a person is on a park bench talking to themselves, laughing and shouting and flinging their hands around wildly, that they may actually be talking to someone on a phone and not themselves. It can be quite funny, especially when these people look at me sideways and with a look of worry. I give them a big smile and wave like I’ve never waved before. I wish I could drool on demand. (You can see why my soul needs some soothing).
And while I was sitting on my park bench doing my physiotherapy, sipping a perfect mug of coffee made for me by my hubby, and getting pelted by leaves falling from the trees, decided today Is the Day of Soup.
Making soup is so pathetically easy you can just see the people at Campbell’s laughing their heads off as they count their millions as we consumers buy their tinned soup. I love their soup, don’t get me wrong. But there is nothing like homemade, and it is so easy I’m surprised every household doesn’t have a huge pot on the big burner simmering away all day, all week long.
Do you buy those pre-cooked chickens at Safeway? You know the ones. Near the deli counter. In that plastic container with cardboard handle? Usually in the neighbourhood of $8.99 – for a whole, cooked chicken? It’s cheaper, and more convenient than buying a raw chicken and going through the whole process of roasting. I don’t know how they manage it, but they do. And darn it, it’s great chicken.
Anyway, if you don’t have turkey bones, you can do it with your post-Safeway roast chicken carcass. Eat some of the meat for your supper. Save a bit for a chicken sandwich next day, then the rest of it, bones and all, chuck it in a pot and boil the bejezzus out of it. Add carrots, onion, celery if you like.
When your house/apartment/condo/trailer/Winnebego/hut smells like grandma’s, or mom’s, or dad’s, or when you start to get the warm fuzzies and feel the love-o-meter reach level 11, pull the carcass out of the broth.
Now, if you are impatient and want to carry on with dinner, you need to skim off the fat. I find this challenging, but it can be done. Skim it off with a spoon and plop it in something you can throw out with the garbage lest that kid from the City of Edmonton TV ad doesn’t come chasing after you, with her bewildered father in tow, for chucking fat down the drain.
If you have time, my favourite thing to do is set the entire pot out on the patio overnight (or, if you are blessed with a a walk-in fridge, you can put it in the fridge). Of course, the patio technique only works during this time of year, or through winter, when it gets chilly outside. The fat will rise nicely to the top and congeal into a nice slab you can easily remove the next day. Make sure your pot lid seals tightly because the last thing you need is to wake up in the morning with the lid removed and a bunch of squirrels, pigeons and magpies hanging around on your patio with distended bellies singing old Irish songs.
Okay, now we have the broth, the fat is removed. And we have bones. If you had meaty bones, now is the time to pick off the meat (it is here I send a heartfelt apology to my vegetarian friends, I realize this sounds so primitive), chop it up and add it back to the broth. This is also a good time to pay homage to the vegetarians and chop up a bunch of carrots, celery, onion and add it to the broth too.
It is at this point you do what you want to make the soup you want. Somedays I will add potato, others a pasta. Maybe rice. Whatever. No matter what you do, unless you suddenly decide to add a full box of Sifto Salt, whatever you do will turn out just fine.
Today, however, I added potatoes and a can of tomatoes. I whirred it up with a whirring thing so it is more smooth than chunky. Then I added the turkey meat.
The spice/herb thing is up to you too. Because I added tomatoes today, I added oregano, basil, garlic, rosemary, thyme and a weeeee bit of fennel. Just a bit. Every time I add fennel I can hear Valerie, of A Canadian Foodie, telling me that her hubby doesn’t like fennel. I know someone who doesn’t like onion. It takes all sorts to make this world turn spin.
At this point, you have a pot of soup. Mission accomplished.
I’m sure there is some young keen University student out there looking for their PhD dissertation topic. If that’s you, you could easily study and write how homemade soup gives everyone, even the devil, the warm fuzzies and a love and kindness for man-kind. Add homemade biscuits and we move to the realm of rapture. We’ll leave rapture for another day.