"I write so that my handful of pebbles, cast into still waters, will create a ripple."

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Caldron and the Six Gallon Soup

In our house, turkey soup is the best part of the Thanksgiving dinner. We overbuy the turkey, planning a savory Sunday night soup supper. The scent of simmering broth, the laughter of playing board games and stories are part of the celebration.   

On Sunday night, the refrigerator was still stuffed with Thanksgiving leftovers, including the picked-over, neglected carcass of a 22-24 pound turkey. That’s when my son pushed his mother-in-law and me into his kitchen with a request for us to make soup. 

He had a six-gallon pot of water simmering. Looking back, we should have just dumped out half the water. But we would have missed all the fun. Instead, Lisa and I looked at each other, both unwilling to make the first complaint about the newly-married couple we share.  

We pulled open the refrigerator and started opening vegetable bins. “Complexity,” I said. “That’s the key. Is there any sausage?” No pork products, it turned out, but she found an unopened packet of store-bought springs of savory, oregano—and a handful of other herbs that smelled like they belonged—so we chopped them into bits and tossed them into the witches’ cauldron. We found a jar of Trader Joe’s gluey chicken broth concentrate and added it. Emptied the vegetable bin of every carrot, celery and onion, including a potato that had somehow escaped the mashed potato pot. Chopped, they sank to the bottom of the tank like guppies. We gingerly shook seasonings until our wrists were sore, then we peeled off the lids and measured into our palms, filled with the élan of TV chefs.

We were giggling when we paused to taste it.  Watery, weak and vapid. Our reputations were on the line so we formed a plan to divide and conquer. We ladled enough to fill a 6-quart pot and concentrated on making soup in the smaller pot. The remaining gallons we would call broth.  

We emptied a package of chicken flavored rice into the pot. Found a jar of turkey salt and seasonings intended to season an outdoor turkey pot. Lisa added a handful while I gaped. She found a jar of garlic and I tossed it in, along with every seasoning we could find on the shelf. Tasted it again. Closer, but not soup yet.

In went the leftover turkey gravy, the Italian soup someone had carried home from a deli. By now the carcass we fished out of the broth had cooled and we started pulling turkey off the bones--scraps that didn't seem as plentiful when added to the pot. We opened closets, hunted through shelves and added to the pot with conspiratorial gleams. There was safety in our abandon; if it didn’t work out, we could blame the other. I recall a partial box of pasta, a pepper grinder whirring away, the last of the baked stuffing disappearing into the pot. A can of garbanzo beans for protein. Anything to thicken and flavor. And suddenly it was soup.

We summoned the newlyweds and they pronounced it “Perfect.” These are two kids who critique restaurant food on a regular basis. We glowed. 

We filled three quart jars with soup and filled a big crock pot for my daughter-in-law to take to work. I tossed the rest into the caldron. It was ready, too. But the fun was over. The dishes were piling up and everyone had disappeared. I filled five (5) gallon-size ziplock baggies, double-bagged for safety, and someone carried them to the freezer. The rest moistened dog food for four dogs that night.

My son was thrilled, and the look on his face was priceless. Best, the Mother-in-Laws forged a friendship that only comes with battle experience. SCORE!