You are currently browsing the archives for March, 2010.

Tips for a Successful “Leftovers” Soup

IMG_2079Leftovers are the problem child of the kitchen. They throw tantrums and fall all over the floor when forced to share space in the fridge. They stubbornly refuse to go away and seem to bring out the worst in other family members forced to coexist with them. Clearly, something needs to be done about them.

While simply reheating that leftover enchilada or half serving of peas is certainly an option, I prefer to disguise my leftovers as soup. Depending on your perspective, this is either a creative and frugal way to reuse ingredients or a shady practice that comes dangerously close to being dishonest. I am loyal to the first camp, but must admit that some of my leftover soups have made me feel mildly criminal, as they tasted like I just dumped all my disparate leftovers into a pot of broth and called it soup.

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Posted 14 years, 3 months ago at 5:38 am. 2 comments

Liquid Gold

IMG_2081Since writing about why I cook, I’ve been thinking about the all the transformations inherent in cooking. In that post, I compare cooking to alchemy, the process of perfecting a base metal (lead) until it turns into a valuable commodity (gold). Making stock might be the best example of kitchen alchemy at work. It takes probably the basest of all ingredients- an old chicken carcass and vegetable scraps- and transforms them into liquid gold for your kitchen. Consommé, a type of clear stock, actually has the same root as “consummate”- both mean to bring something to perfection. Regardless of the metaphorical significance such a process may have, stock is a basic, if endangered, kitchen skill.

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Posted 14 years, 3 months ago at 7:43 pm. 3 comments


IMG_2077Things I found while digging my garden:

  • Two rusted caps- perhaps from an old car?
  • A rusted tin lid
  • A rusted canning jar lid
  • 2 marbles- one blue, one yellow and red
  • A green leggo
  • Various worn glass shards, mostly clear but one blue
  • A sliver of porcelain
  • A blade of some kind
  • A bottle cap
  • A germinating pecan
  • A wire fence buried six inches below the surface
  • A new appreciation for the words “deep rooted”

Posted 14 years, 3 months ago at 8:06 pm. Add a comment

For a rainy day

I originally wrote this for a Creative Writing class.*  The weather today and a recent conversation with my sister made it seem appropriate to post it here.

The sky soothes into quiet and Light commences a waltz with Shadow around the sála.  The bamboo chimes begin to move, at first a slow seductive twirl like a dancer’s hips but quickening till the chimes spin way out like a whirling dervish’s skirts.  In the beginning, the rain is all humility and meekness. It’s coming is heralded by small, not gaudy, changes – the patterns running down the window, the spattered mud leaping a few inches up the wall, the banana leaves casually bouncing like a woman’s foot when she crosses her legs.  And the sound!…echoing differently off each wall, as if trying to find the right pitch.  It’s accompanied by the wonderful cool breeze that blows through the windows, making the curtains drum their fingers in rhythm.  Everyone in the room seems to perceive its advent at exactly the same moment, and they hover around the window to watch the nativity progress.

The birth of the rain smells like dust.  I count each tiny bead of water as it falls to the ground with a hollow plop.  But then the plops increase to higher sounds, like marbles dropped in a sink.  The air now smells clean, all the dust being purified from it.  I can’t do anything but lie back on my bed and listen to the sound of the whole jungle surrounding me, drowning in soft pattering drips.  The angel chorus of birds still sing…bursting out in occasional solos, their sopranos balanced by the deep bass of thunder.  All of this to the beat of a million drops, each one hitting its own note and boggling my mind that I am hearing every one of them.

Soon, its still small voice beckons to me between the drops. I rise from my bed and follow it. I hug the wall and slither past my mother.  Then it’s all splashing in puddles and squeezing mud between my toes and getting gloriously, gloriously wet.  The rain trickles down into my eyes and plasters my hair to my head.  The moisture hangs heavy on my eyelashes and transforms the ordinary world into  trickling visions.  The weight of it forces my eyes closed and the vision slides down my cheeks like tears. I look behind me at my footprints in the mud.  I watch as the rain fills them and the shapes are distorted into puddles.  I again think of each individual drop it takes to fill the puddle. As each new drop lands, the puddle itself reaches up, as if begging for more.

I gaze across the valley and watch the approaching wall of grayness, knowing I have only a few moments before I am discovered and my mother calls me inside.  So I race the oncoming bulwark to my favorite tree.  Slipping and sliding all the way, I scramble up the slippery bark, onto my favorite branch, barely beating the barrage of wetness.  It hits me in the face like sopping sheets.  I reach out to stop them, only to discover they slip through my fingers like ghosts and smack me anyway.  The rain swaddles me in its self, making me breathe in its rhythm.  I cannot see past the shroud it has hung on the outermost branches, burying reality.  It is easy to wonder if all the rest was merely a dream.

Just as I get accustomed to this revelation, my house begins to materialize…cloudy at first, as if turned impressionist, but becoming clearer and sharper.  A sense of relieved disappointment fills my chest as the rain welled up in my footprints.  I must go back. The way back is longer and more laborious.  I am forced to pick my feet up high with each step out of the mud, like an ancient Hebrew slave making bricks.  The clothesline guards the border to reality and I watch the rain drops tiptoe to the middle of the line and hesitate until the next one pushes too hard and it slips off into the unknown.  At the back door my mother is already wielding the hose, trying to look condescending, but not quite able to banish the smile from her eyes.  Deep down I recognize her own longing.  I see her mouth form the words “filthy” and “clean up” but can’t hear it above the rain on the tin roof.  With a shake of her head, she commences the ceremonial cleansing which I must endure if I wish to enter the house -first my face, then my arms and legs, and finally my bare feet.  I surrender to her ministrations until the mud swirls down the drain.  Then I shloosh free.  My feet smack against the cool cement floor and I find I must walk carefully or risk slipping.

Once inside, I prefer not to shower, liking the natural feel on my skin.  I return to the cloud of people at the window and join the eager curiosity of witnessing the front yard fill up like a bathtub and guessing which step that afternoon’s rain will climb to….

That is the rain in the Philippines.  Everything else is just drizzle.

*While this is my writing, the original inspiration came from another missionary kid many years ago.  He published it on a MK message board.  If anyone knows who it was, I would love to give him credit.

Posted 14 years, 3 months ago at 6:30 pm. Add a comment

Why I Cook


Michael Rulman, a journalist chef, recently listed the reasons he cooks on his blog. He then asked the question that launched a thousand comments- why do you cook? The responses, though many, seemed to play variations on two themes- health and enjoyment. People cook because it is easier to have control over both ingredient selection and proper preparation. They also cook because they’d rather unwind in front of the stove than the TV; it’s enjoyable.

I think this is an important question to for everyone to answer, even if your answer is the same as everyone else’s. In the middle of your third stack of dishes, with five more stacks to go, it helps to remember why you do this thing called cooking.

I cook because . . .

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Posted 14 years, 4 months ago at 9:03 pm. Add a comment

Lemony Shrimp Soup

IMG_2024I felt like Snow White while making this soup. While I hummed about the kitchen, ingredients seemed to wing out of the fridge and into the soup as if little adorable doe eyed woodland creatures were helping them along. Before I knew it, I had a beautiful soup that seemed to have created itself.

I love those days.

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Posted 14 years, 4 months ago at 7:23 am. 1 comment