Yesterday it rained for the first time in I don’t know how long. Oh, I could readily find out — I do keep a weather journal. It didn’t rain much the last time. As of yesterday morning I had recorded under half an inch since the first of the year and as of last evening I had just 0.2″ more to add.
Last night it snowed. I woke up to two inches of wet white stuff. I have to be happy for that, because we so desperately need the moisture. But I had to cancel a trip into town. I wanted to pick up a load of alfalfa hay, and get some cat food. I’m out of bananas, and getting low on peanut butter. And [gasp!] I’m out of wine. But more importantly, I had to cancel the appointment for a massage.
Okay, it’s not a great tragedy but it is a bit of a disappointment. I’m not in dire need of the massage and I won’t get to hang out in the coffee shop this afternoon with a book, a cup of coffee, and a pastry. The massage has been rescheduled and the coffee shop will be there next week, so it’s not the end of the world. It’s just one of those things when you go rural.
Living out here in the middle of nowhere means knowing that there could be days or weeks when going anywhere is not possible. It means thinking in advance, replenishing supplies before running out, and making do. If a person isn’t into the mentality of preparedness and self-sufficiency then this is not the kind of place to live.
In my case, today is more like a schoolkid’s snow day than anything else. I get to stay home. Yay! (That’s the hermit in me talking). And of course, I have what I need here to make the day even better. None of the things on my shopping list are things I’m in danger of running out of unless I couldn’t drive out for a good long time.
Except for the wine. A wine cellar’s on my To Do list, but I’m not there yet. I rarely have back-up wine. I’ll tough it out.
It’s a cold, dreary day, today. The snow has stopped and the melt has begun. It’ll be a snotty mess out there in a while. A good excuse to stay inside and snuggle up near the wood stove with a book. And maybe some comfort food. I’m thinking potato soup.
Look Ma! No recipe!
Making do happens when you can’t follow a recipe. Maybe you don’t have the ingredients, or the time, or that recipe just doesn’t appeal. In my case it seems to mean being constitutionally incapable of following directions. Oh, not because I couldn’t if I wanted to, but because it just seems so… um…
Let’s just say that some of us make our own excitement in life.
I’ve always been attracted to stories of people pushing the envelope of their very existence. Doesn’t matter where or when. It could be anybody, at any time, on whatever ocean or continent… or planet or galaxy. Shipwrecked folks, lost folks, explorers, pioneers — people who went where no others had gone before and who made do with what they had and what they could invent.
It takes a special kind of person to do that. I’ve always wanted to be a member of their ranks. But you know, I’ve got that hermit thing going, so that has put a crimp on what I might do. The thought of being stuck on an island or in a spaceship with a bunch of people who are in my face all the time is just too ewwww. Plus I’d get claustrophobic without wild, open spaces to roam.
So hey — I could be a mountain man, like Grizzly Adams as portrayed by Dan Haggerty (I met him years back, seemed like a nice guy). Except I don’t live in the mountains and I’m a woman, and no training bears for me, thank you very much. Anyway those are just details. The point is a life of doing whatever I can for myself by myself. Not living by the book. Not just marching to a different drummer — but to my own drummer: me. Even if I can’t drum.
It’s a life of choosing to take a different road, maybe one that requires giving certain things up in order to have other things that are more important. From the outside it might look a lot like living a hard life for no reason, but from the inside what it feels like is playing.
Yes, playing. By that I mean, having fun doing something I’ve chosen to do the way I want to do it and enjoying what I’m doing just because I can.
So about that soup
Even if I had an excellent potato soup recipe I wouldn’t follow it. (I do have an excellent book of soup recipes entitled Soup, by Coralie Castle; 101 Productions; distributed by Scribner, New York 1971. It is out in a second edition published in 1996, too.) I don’t need to look in the book to know I probably don’t have all the ingredients, or if I do, I won’t want to use the ingredients called for. More importantly, seems to me that recipes are guidelines to someone else’s idea of what food should taste like. It’s like making a quilt using the exact fabrics and pattern that someone else has created, or painting-by-numbers.
Not saying that there’s anything wrong with doing those things, just that it’s not for me.
You know the supposedly ancient Chinese saying about giving a man a fish vs. teaching him how to fish? Well, teach me not only how to fish, but how to light a fire, and how to clean the fish, and how to fry or broil or stew, and you’ve taught me something truly useful. Which, by the way, is why the early editions of The Joy of Cooking are so wonderful — Irma Rombauer provided not just recipes but an explanation of the basic principles of cooking. That’s why that cookbook has been in print continuously since 1936 with over 18 million copies sold.
Teach me the principles of soup and I’ll make my own recipe.
So in case you want to know what I did, here it is, today’s recipe for potato soup, with annotations. Next time I won’t make it the same way. As for trying my recipe? Do what you will, that is the only advice (apology to Mr. Crowley)
- 5 potatoes of varying sizes I grabbed some potatoes that I forgot I had. They hadn’t gone green yet and that didn’t have lots of sprouts. Most of the rest will get planted when it’s warmer if they don’t go into the compost, darn it
- 1 onion It needed using before it needed to join the potatoes in the garden
- 3 large carrots because I like carrots
- 1 cup chopped kale because I had it, because it doesn’t store well and the horses won’t eat it, and because it would make the soup photo pretty
- A few grinds of black pepper
- 1 TBS cumin because I love the taste
- 1 TBS Golden Paste (turmeric) because it’s good for me. You can use plain turmeric if you don’t have Golden Paste handy, or don’t put any in the soup at all
- Some veggie oil
- A big blob of butter
- Secret ingredient: Left-over coffee from this morning
- Heat the oil in a deep pan or a soup pot. Melt butter in the oil. Don’t let it get so hot it smokes!
- Chop the onions into chunks and saute in the oil/ butter. While that’s cooking, do the potatoes. Don’t forget to stir every so often so nothing sticks to the pan.
- Chop the potatoes into chunks and add to the onions. While that’s cooking, do the carrots.
- Chop the carrots into smallish pieces and add to the onions/carrots. While that’s cooking, do the kale.
- Chop the kale and stir into the rest.
- Add the pepper, and the other spices if you like them.
- Add the coffee (it was about 8 oz). I like coffee in my sauces and soups because it adds a nice dark color and some depth and richness to the taste. I tend to not bother with meat broths, which would do the same.
- Add water to cover all ingredients and bring to a boil.
- Cover and simmer on low till it’s getting mushy. Leave the lid cocked a little so the liquid reduces some, but watch that it doesn’t reduce too much and burn your veggies. My soup was started on the gas stove and finished on the wood stove.
OK, here’s the fun part. After the soup’s cooked a while but before it’s done you can start adjusting the taste. Be advised that it’s all subjective. I like to taste what I’ve got, imagine how it might be better (unless it’s perfect already) then add a few things that call to me.
- Add salt. Or maybe soy sauce. Or not.
- Try these (they’re in my soup right now): Tarragon, basil, coriander.
- Heavy cream, if you’re into cream of potato soup. I’ve got powdered heavy cream I might add later. Or not.
My soup’s cooking right now. It needs a few hours of simmering, but it’s already tasting interesting. But you know the best part of this? However it turns out, it doesn’t matter. It wasn’t only ever about the eating part.
I’ll report later how the soup turns out, good or bad!
EDITED: same evening. I had a bowl of my soup straight, with some added salt. If I make it again I’ll add salt in the beginning It tasted fine, but it was more like a veggie stew than a soup.
For a second bowl I mashed the veggies and then added plain yogurt. Oh my, now that’s good. But also, I felt that the whole dish would have been improved with the addition of lentils early on. I think more potatoes would have been a good idea.
I’m too full now for a third bowl, so that experiment is for tomorrow. I’m going to run the soup through a blender and add the heavy cream instead of yogurt. Actually, I think I’ll add the cream (powdered) tonight so it’ll have a chance to blend in with the other flavors.
EDITED: next day. Oh boy oh boy oh boy. YUMMY! I can’t decide whether I like the yogurt version or the cream version better. I’ll have to make this soup again to find out because it’s all gone now!
I’m giving this soup 4 of 5 stars! ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ☆