Turning Point: Chicken Soup

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Turning Point by Beth Irvine

I’m a plain cook, but the family isn’t backward about eating my cooking. When people say, “You must like to cook,” I always answer, “It’s not so much that I like to prepare a meal as I really do like to eat it!” 

We are particular about what we eat so I’ve learned to get food ready in a way that appeals to us.  Although it takes an hour or two, it’s worth every mouthful. 

Isn’t it amazing how recipes can appear so simple?  You would think that anyone could combine the ingredients and - Presto! — there would be the dish you were longing for. Take pie crust, for instance: three ingredients (well, four if you count the water). My friend the artist is still puzzled by pastry. “Why doesn’t it work with oil?” she’ll ask, or,  “Why can’t I just add more water?” She’s used to combining odd dabs of paint to create illusions and hammering attractive little bits into place to facet pattern. She is stymied by something that will not yield to the demands of her hands. More importantly, she damaged her sense of taste mixing said paints and takes not the pleasure in a delicately-flavoured dish that you or I do.

You couldn’t have eaten any of my first five pies, not even with a pickaxe. Later in life, my new husband expressed a wish for apple pie, a wish which I was delighted to make come true as my pastry had improved 10 times over. “Not like Mum’s,” was his comment. Well, it wasn’t like my Mum’s either . . . Over the decades, the pastry has improved until I defy you to distinguish between Mum’s and mine!

Or take pâté à la rapure: potatoes, onions and any kind of meat, plus the water. If you’ve ever tried to make it, you know that the ingredient list may be brief, but that’s where the simplicity ends! I spent three whole days —grating, wringing, simmering, baking -- creating three disappointing lumps before I gave it up. The stuff you buy at the supermarket is quite good enough.

Last night, on my way out the door, I suggested that our young man prepare chicken soup for supper today — we had a rack and all the ingredients on hand. I had launched into the third paragraph before I realized we really needed to prepare the soup togetheror we’d be eating disaster for supper. It’s been so long since my first pot of soup, I’d forgotten what an art there is to making broth. And the complications of picking over the rack, the time it takes to dice the vegetables, the way to cook the rice before adding it to the broth.

Time, experience and appreciation are the most important ingredients in any recipe, aren’t they?  As someone wise once said, “To everything you make add a little love and things will turn out alright.” That’s a pretty good definition of love, I think: time, experience and appreciation.


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