From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Soul Food for a Cold January Night

Staying warm as winter strengthens



January is upon us. Even in the upper South, we are feeling the polar air mass that's moving across the continent.

Tonight's low is supposed to be +11° with a wind chill of -10°, and tomorrow night, the forecast predicts +2°, again with wind. Those numbers may not sound extreme to people who endure subzero temperatures frequently, but it's cold for this area.

We're hoping that this is our worst cold spell of the winter, but it might not be. One frigid night during the early 1990s, the temperature dropped to -10°-- the coldest temperature I've seen in Kentucky so far.

Tonight, we brought in some of the good hickory firewood that we've been saving for a cold spell. As it burns, blue flames bloom over the logs, and when the flames die down, the logs crumble into a hot pile of coals that glow for hours.

The gas heater will come on if the wood stove needs some assistance overnight, but so far tonight, the wood stove has been doing the job alone.

Dennis, Isaac, and I were all at home and able to have supper together tonight. I made potato soup. To me, it's a comfort food -- warming to both body and soul.

I can't write an exact recipe for the soup, but this is how I made it:

  • Boiled about 2 quarts of peeled, cubed potatoes with some minced garlic until the potatoes were soft.
  • Diced 2 stalks of celery and an onion and cooked it in a little water in the microwave until soft.
  • Diced a couple of thick slices of ham.
  • Made about 3 cups of thick white sauce in a big soup pot.
  • Melted a cup of shredded cheddar cheese in the white sauce.
  • Added some chicken soup base dissolved in hot water.
  • Mashed a few of the potatoes;  added all the potatoes to the soup pot with their water.
  • Added the hot onions and celery with their water.
  • Added the ham.
  • Thinned the soup with some milk, and then ...
  • Thickened it up just a little with some instant mashed potato flakes.


This soup wasn't much like the potato soup I ate when I was growing up. My mother and father liked dumplings in their potato soup -- not southern dumplings which are really just extra wide noodles, but northern dumplings which are made by dropping spoonfuls of dough into the hot soup to cook.

I suspect that the dumpling idea came from my mother who had a strong German influence on her upbringing. Her soup was a lot like this recipe for German potato soup with dumplings.

2 comments:

Larry said...

Potato soup is indeed a winter comfort food. I've made soups very similar to the one you describe; another variation I'm fond of: hold the cheese and ham and add diced canned oysters. Chopped fresh parsley can be a good seasoning ingredient.

Genevieve said...

Sort of an oyster chowder, I guess. I sometimes make a potato-based soup with canned salmon or canned clams (chopped).

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

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