The Season of Soup and Scarves

The Season of Soup and Scarves

“I didn’t used to like winter,” said Susanna, indignantly, as though the season was a personal affront. Then she returned calmly to her soup.

“What happened?” I prompted.

“I discovered soup and scarves,” was her nonchalant reply.


I’ve always liked winter, perhaps because my life has always come with an abundance of soup and scarves. The soup I can’t explain. In the middle of summer, I’ve walked into the kitchen, already oppressively hot, to discover a parent boiling soup stock and chopping farm-fresh summer veggies. The windows are open, the fans are blowing, and the soup simmers away. You know that the summer weather is really taking a toll when my mom buys her soup from the store rather than turn on the stove top. Yet our soup tradition continues unabated as the  heat rises and humidity grows thick enough to cut.

By the time autumn comes around again, we’re so happy that the outdoors no longer feel like a blast furnace that we celebrate with soup.

The scarves I can explain. Everyone in my family has learned how to crochet, or knit. As every beginner book will tell you, the best item to make is a scarf. “Your friends and family will love it! You’ll have the perfect gift for the holiday season! Everyone will be amazed by your prowess!” the books lie over and over again. By the time I put my needles to yarn, there was already an overflowing beach bag of scarves which proved the books wrong. Everyone in my family preferred their store-bought scarves to the wealth of homemade ones. Those loving presents, contrary to the beginner book promises, laid undisturbed until someone’s real scarf when missing. Then the bag was pawed through, and the now scarf-less person resigned themselves to one of those long-ago gifts, all the while wishing that those trusty knitting needles had never been picked up.

As another winter descends upon us, I’ll start in on the soup and leave scarves to the rest of the family.

Based on a true recipe

Sweet Potato & Bean Soup

1½ cups dried beans, rinsed or 1 -2 cans, rinsed The recipe called for black beans. I had pinto beans in the house, so that’s what I used

1 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced

2 sweet potatoes, diced
1 parsnip, diced
4 cups soup stock or water You really should have soup stock on hand. Always.
3/4 tsp ground coriander Feel free to replace with any other spice if you don’t have coriander in the house. I used allspice because nutmeg seemed like the other likely replacement, and we have a bad history. Ask Special Correspondent Ellen if you don’t believe me. Though I now realize that I misread coriander as cardamon. Eh, just double up the cumin and call it a day.

1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp pepper
salt, as desired
2 tbsp lemon or lime juice

I realized after the first tasting that the soup was too hearty for me so I added:

2 heads broccoli or 1 lb green beans

2 to 4 cups water

1 cup salsa

Boil the beans for as long as it takes to cook them in a large pot of water. Refill pot with water occasionally, as the beans soak it up. Or you can check the internet before hand to see the actual proportions and time needed.

Sautee onions, garlic. Add stock/water and root vegetables. Cook till soft. If you’re like me, pour everything into the food processor and puree until smooth. If you’re living in the dark ages, boil potatoes and parsnip separately, drain. Pull out your wisk and mash until smooth; then add stock/water to sauteed onions and garlic and lump in the potato/parsnip mix.

Add spices, vegetables, water, and salsa as desired.

Scarf not included.



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