Saturday, October 25, 2008

Holiday Soups

Fruit Soup
Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
Here is the text for my holiday soup story For Today's Woman magazine.

Whether you are throwing a party or going to one at someone else’s house, soup is a great menu item to consider for a crowd during the holidays. Soups can go together quickly and are fairly easy to keep warm or cold. The holidays are also a good time to roll out those soup recipes that are just too large or rich for a family weeknight meal. But more than that, soups are traditional fare for most holiday meals.
Margaret Wilson of Indian Land likes to serve oyster stew to her company, or take it to church dinners. “It’s easy to throw together,” she says. So easy, in fact, that she seemed a bit embarrassed to give out the recipe. “It goes together in just minutes,” she explains. Easy or not, the soup is much requested at Belair United Methodist Church.
My mother makes fruit soup at least once each holiday season. I remember having it when we went to my grandmother’s house in Iowa at New Year’s. Actually, we had oyster stew and fruit soup. When I mention fruit soup to my friends they say they have never heard of it, and they sound a bit dubious about what it might taste like. Fruit soup, or fruktsuppe in Norway, is usually served warm and is made from dried fruits such as raisins and prunes. It may have dairy such as cream or milk, or may even have alcohol such as brandy or champagne. In many other countries, the soup is usually served cold in the summer with fresh fruit that is in season. Either way it is served, it is usually sweet and so is considered to be more of a dessert than a main course. My mother likes to serve it with lefse, a Norwegian potato flatbread.
In some cultures, beet soup, or borscht, is considered a Christmas soup. The Polish call it barszcz and serve a strictly vegetarian version as the first course on Christmas Eve. Borscht is chock full of root vegetables and goes together quickly, but traditionally it is prepared several days in advance so that it has an opportunity to develop acidity.
Kwanzaa, a week-long celebration honoring African heritage, has several soups as part of its traditional fare. Peanut soup is common throughout Africa and has migrated to the U.S. as slaves in the South prepared it with local peanuts. The simplest recipe calls for two parts chicken stock, two parts shelled peanuts, and one part milk or cream. Another popular Kwanzaa soup is African Tomato Avocado Buttermilk Soup.
Hanukah also falls in December. Although it is a minor Jewish holiday, it still carries its’ traditional holiday fare, and the most easily-recognized food (besides potato latkes) has to be Chicken and Matzo Ball Soup. This Jewish staple is as revered for its healing powers as it is for its comforting taste and unique texture.
No matter the holiday you and your family observe, there is a soup recipe to help you celebrate. And most soups benefit from advance preparation, allowing the flavors to marry before serving to guests. Warm it up in a crockpot, add some crackers or lefse or cornbread and you’ll have a hearty meal to serve to your guests or to take to someone else’s party.

And my mom's fruit soup recipe, revised slightly:

Fruit Soup
By Mary Goetsch
2 Qts boiling water
1 C chopped prunes
1/2 C raisins
1 6-oz package dried mixed fruit, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon, plus a little grated peel
1/2 C sugar-(or to taste)
1/2 C tapioca*
Juice of 1 orange, plus a little grated peel
1 5-oz package dried apple rings, chopped
1 can good quality pie cherries packed in water
Cook all but the pie cherries at medium low heat until the tapioca is done and the fruit is tender. Stir in the pie cherries and heat through. If you like the way the soup looks, you are done. But if you’d prefer, you can add a couple of drops of red food color to make the soup look more appetizing.
Mary likes to serve it with lefse, which is a Norwegian potato flatbread, but it can be served alone. Serve in small ramekins or punch cups. It is very rich.
*You may use regular or pearl tapioca, but if you use pearl, be sure you soak it overnight before using

Actually, the only revision I made was to cut the sugar in half. I've always looked forward to the fruit soup and then when I get the first bite I remember it's awful sweetness. Well darn if she doesn't use and ENTIRE CUP OF SUGAR with all that FRUIT! So I cut the sugar to 1/2 a cup, and then I simmered the orange and lemon rinds in the soup while it was cooking. Now it's something I can see myself eating a lot more of. I'll maybe put some on ice cream, but I think I'll really stir some into my morning oatmeal. Toss in a few nuts and I think I'll have breakfast fit for a queen.

And many many thanks to neighbor Mary for help with the food styling. She really likes that and is creative that way.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

From the Charlotte Observer

Not voting? Better than voting without a clue

By Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.

Today we salute the 40 percent of the citizenry who are true patriots. They don't vote.

Yes, I'm serious.

We are taught since childhood that we should show up and cast ballots as a sacred rite of citizenship. We are taught wrong.

Look, some people shouldn't drive. Some people shouldn't sing. Some people shouldn't handle firearms.

Some people shouldn't vote.

We don't need to make them feel bad by trumpeting this “To the polls, ye sons and daughters of freedom!” nonsense. They're doing the right thing.

They don't know, they don't care and they don't vote. Leave them alone.

Do not unleash your campaign's Annoy-a-tron to call them at dinner and nag them to vote (for you, of course). They are gentle apathetics and have the right to watch “Wheel of Fortune” undisturbed.

See, in the mechanics of democracy, some assembly is required. You need to actually educate yourself on the candidates before entering the poll.

There are those among us who just don't get that. They pull back the curtains snorting fire to elect the next president and suddenly discover a dozen races they weren't expecting. It's like achieving parenthood, then finding out about diapers.

Hereabouts we elect insurance commissioners, state auditors and soil-and-water conservation district supervisors. No, I don't know what they do either, but plenty of people who are eager to do their civic duty just pick willy-nilly when confronted by such races, like a student who didn't bother to read the last chapter of the book before the exam.

This just doesn't serve the cause.

You may be the best soil-and-water candidate in decades, but if your name is Adolf Citibank Hussein, you're going to drive off the dedicated clueless who will vote instead for Joe T. Plumber, who favors erosion and drought.

So here's the deal: If you want to vote, have at it.

Before doing so, take a little time to study the races. You already know what you're doing in McCain vs. Obama and probably have figured out your pick in She Exports Jobs to China vs. She Won't Take A Stand.

But in the other races, nose around a little. Figure out if the candidates for school board, courts and commissions are in tune with you.

Google “League of Women Voters Mecklenburg,” for example, and read the candidate surveys. Check out the voter guide in the newspaper or online. Peruse the Observer's endorsements (and if you don't like the paper's elite liberal media pinko commie moron bias, vote against every single one – at least you'd have a system).

And if you don't have a pick in a race, skip it. No charge. Feel no guilt. I will absolutely applaud you. Leave the decision to those in the know. Stand up against VWI – Voting While Ignorant.

Democracy is a wonderful thing. So is a chainsaw. In both cases, you must be careful where you aim.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Herding Cats

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
Taking a page from my Mother's book, I bought this wine simply because I liked the name. And it was cheap. And I like the picture.

And it's not bad.

Kind of dry.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Remain Calm: ADMENDMENT!

You know what I'm starting to get nervous about?


That's right. My son wants a pumpkin pie. He's here for the weekend. I've gone to three grocery stores and the gas station. NO PUMPKIN ANYWHERE!

What's up with that?

Remain Calm

As I open my mail this morning, and I see that our net worth has dropped precipitously, the only thing I can think is "Be calm. Wary, but calm." There is nothing we can do. We have to just ride out this economic thing and hope for the best. Last week Warren Buffet said, "Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful." That's what I'm hoping my investment companies are all doing. I trust them. I pretty much have to.

I had breakfast yesterday with some posse members and, as usual, we lent a little time to the economy and money in general. One friend said, "I thought about hooking (to raise extra cash), but that wouldn't really work." My other friend said, "There's all that talking..." I chimed in by saying that I understand many hookers have rules. Maybe you could have "no talking" rule. As we all laughed, I got to thinking, "Well, it's dark humor, but it's better than crying."

My friends and I can all thank our lucky stars that we are 20 years from retirement. The ones that I am concerned about are our nation's retirees and those folks that are near retirement. But somehow it all ends up working out.