Archive for January, 2012


I went to Panera Bread for the first time as a freshman in high school with a friend of mine and her mother in the days before I understood that restaurants would customize your order. When I first saw the menu, I had no idea what to buy. I hated mayonnaise with a passion (and still do with few exceptions), and practically every sandwich on the menu utilized one form or another as a condiment. Worse still, practically everything had tomatoes, a food that, in its raw form, is only just now becoming tolerable to me at the age of 24. I gave the menu one of my blankest looks, much like the one I would give my calculus text book three years later. I had been ordering for myself at restaurants for probably six or seven years at that point and cutting my own meat for a year longer, but thus far, I never had to make such a life-altering decision in my brief and sheltered existence.

“The broccoli cheddar soup here is really good,” my friend insisted.

I confess I was dubious. “The problem is I don’t really eat a lot of raw cheese, so I’m not really sure if I’d like a soup with a cheese base.” I associated any sort of “cream” soup with the milk and roux mixture we served at home. Chunks of potatoes or broccoli floated around in milk broth, but I canned up my complaints about the flavor to avoid offending the chef, whether that was my mom or my dad. Uttering one word of disdain was like cranking a pan full of spaghetti sauce on high and simply walking away from it: if I spawned more heat and threw off the equilibrium, the white stove top of a calm evening would look less like an appliance and more like a massacre. Of course, I only mean words, but as the only child, I tried to keep parental perturbation down to a minimum.

I wasn’t seeing any other solutions to the problem, and the menu wasn’t responding to my glances. “Get it in a bread bowl,” she suggested. “At least try it.”

Fortunately, this was before Panera became less restaurant and more madhouse. There were only a handful of customers already dining, and we were the only ones in line. It was about 11:30. Nowadays, there aren’t even any tables left at 11:30, and the line of diners stretches helter-skelter towards the door. I placed my order and got a glass of water to accompany my lunch.

If I had to choose one word to describe my first encounter with that soup, it would have to be euphoric. I became more attached to it, ordering the dish every time we visited the restaurant (until I discovered the Sierra Turkey sandwich; then, I began alternating between the two).

A few years ago, this friend added a little too much heat to my stable existence, and I simply rammed her into the back of my subconscious, relegating her to the bottom shelf and cutting all ties. The problem was that as we grew older, I aged like a barrel of wine: I was cumbersome and still had a very limited perception of the world, but my flavor was developing, changing, growing, and (hopefully) improving. I began to see the world through glass that was not rose-colored. I labored at a Pizza Hut, tolerating my menial minimum-wage job, disdaining my slacking coworkers, and at times wanting to toss a full vat of sauce on the customers. People were not all nice, and life was not easy. Conversely, she aged more like a Twinkie. As another only child, she lives in a smaller container than I do, a plastic wrapper where she sees the world not quite as it is but how she wants to. She was preserved by an abundance, and maybe an overabundance, of affection. I saw ugly sides of her that I will never share with anyone else, and those sides reminded me that unlike her, I had to earn my gas and spending money. She got sizable handouts of money from her parents regularly, but for me, every dime was a drop of sweat, every quarter a rock of the knife on the board, every dollar a spot of hot oil singeing my flesh and leaving small, white, dalmatian-spot scars.  She still appears in my dreams sometimes, usually as an antagonist, and when I wake up on mornings like that, I find myself wondering if she ever changed.

Although my relationship with this particular friend came to an abrupt end and I no longer frequent Panera, my bond to broccoli-cheddar soup grew infinitely stronger when I found this recipe and began making my own. I actually prefer my own broccoli-cheddar soup to Panera’s because the broccoli is chunkier and never overcooked.

Mount Pleasant is rumored to be getting a Panera Bread in the next six months. I jokingly tell people that the reason they don’t have one already is because I can make their broccoli-cheddar soup better than they can. It seems odd to me that Panera is just now coming here when I’m getting so close to leaving, so maybe there is some truth in this.

But it’s probably just a coincidence.

Chicken and Broccoli Cheddar Soup for the Sole

Ingredients

  • ¼ onion, diced
  • 4 baby carrots, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 2 chicken tenderloins, frozen
  • 4 oz fresh broccoli, chopped
  • 2 tsp butter, separated into 1 tsp portions
  • 1 ½ tsp flour
  • 1 pint half and half
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp nutmeg

Directions

  1. In a three-quart sauce pan, melt 1 tsp butter. Add onions and cook until onions are caramelized.
  2. While onions are caramelizing, defrost chicken tenderloins in microwave for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Melt the remaining teaspoon of butter and mix with flour. Cook for 1-2 minutes until flour/butter mixture is pasty and golden.
  4. Add chicken stock to the pan and whisk until roux is fully dissolved. Add half and half. Lower heat to a simmer. Dice chicken and add to pan. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Add carrots and celery. Simmer for an additional 15 minutes.
  6. Add broccoli. Simmer for another 15 minutes.
  7. Add sharp cheddar in ¼ or ⅓ cup batches. Whisk each batch until it is fully melted and combined with the cooking liquid.
  8. Add nutmeg and black pepper. Serve with crusty bread.

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Something to Stew Over

Apparently, French kitchens are a relatively straight-forward concept in comparison to the whole “soup vs. stew” debate.

I recently received a comment from Joe, a reader and classmate, in response to a recent post on what I considered a minor detail: is a soup a stew? Is a stew a soup? What about Rachel Ray and her portmanteau of “stoup”? And just where the  heck does that leave chowder?

I’ve done a little light reading on the subject (limited due to the interference of one Mr. Charles Dickens) of the difference in order to better educate myself, and I can’t help but find it mildly comical that what started out as a simple class project has led me to self-discovery and to greater knowledge (not to mention a bunch of other tasty blogs). According to the article Soup vs. Stew: Difference in Details, there is a legitimate difference between soup and stew. To paraphrase the information given (see above link for full text), soup is not only more fluid than stew but also less hearty. In comparison, stew is mainly comprised of the “goodies” (meat, potatoes, vegetables, etc.) surrounded by a minimal amount of gravy. However, soup contains a thinner liquid. Furthermore, while stew can stand as the main dish, soup is generally seen as a “first course.”

According to a different article found in a food dictionary, one that compares definitions from another source, different sorts of soups had varying consistencies depending on how its made, whereas stew constitutes as any dish that is prepared through the process of stewing. Soups apparently encompass a wide variety of dishes from the thinnest of consommés to the chunkiest of chowders (again paraphrasing from the above link), whereas stews are a combination of hearty ingredients immersed in “a thick, soup-like broth.” Like the author of this particular source, I question the validity of this definition as it uses the word “soup” to define “stew” and transforms the matter into a culinary paradox of sorts. Just where does the soup end and the stew begin?

In my own experiences, I can definitely see a difference between the dishes in terms of texture. Stew tends to be heartier and contain large chunks. The fluid base is thicker as well. The problem is I have had my fair share of soups in life, everything from a mushroom bisque at a French bistro in Columbus to the classic beef and vegetable my grandmother used to make. My palette has been charmed by the homemade French Onion soup, served in a miniature crock with a large crouton and topped with mozzarella cheese that has been broiled to perfection. I have ventured into everything from chicken and potato curry soup with mushrooms to broccoli cheddar. My tongue is a more seasoned traveler than I am, having been to Mexico, China, Texas, Italy, France, and Louisiana (but not New England… I never was a clam chowder fan; they’re a little too snotty for me). In my experience, stew has not taken me to the same places (although I did go to Morocco once in a crock pot).

In light of this culinary conundrum, and at Joe’s suggestion, I have decided to poll my readers about whether or not stew constitute as “fair game” in this fourteen-week challenge. I have plans for the next two soups already, so on February 11, depending on the results of this poll, add a “stew clause” to the existing guidelines I wrote in my first entry.

Aside from voting in this poll, of course invite readers to comment and leave their rationale (and to persuade others to see things their way… because what fun would a friendly debate–or Jane Austen, for that matter–be without Persuasion?). I have included the links to my source information but invite other research (informed voting is the best kind) and would also be interested in seeing this information.

Forget football. This is the Super Bowl.

I’m eating my last bowl of chicken and red lentil soup in the library coffee shop, a well-lit place crowded with vivid and various people. For once, I’m not eating dinner a la sole but with a friend and colleague who, like me, has a dash of cook in her and who, unlike me, has two roommates to boot. We discuss the ever-important philosophical debate of whether or not a stew constitutes as a soup (and it does in my book, so expect to see some stew in the future).

In the middle of her broccoli salad, Caitlin states, “Soup just isn’t that important to me, you know?”

“Not I,” I respond, swallowing another mouthful of my nightly victuals. “To me, soup is… life.”

But it’s strangely not soup I’m thinking about. No… instead, I’m thinking about the kitchen I left behind four hours ago when I went to work, the dark and cramped little nook of my apartment where I let my culinary muse run wild when it isn’t buried under a stack of Victorian novels. I started thinking about my kitchen two days ago, around the same time I started thinking about that last bowl of soup sitting in my refrigerator, positioned among sandwich fixings, tortillas that will one day be tacos, the basics milk and bread, and a criminal line-up of condiments (the usual culprits). Two days ago (and even two hours ago), I was fully prepared to deep-fry my kitchen in derision. Its Lilliputian size, the hideous linoleum tile that reminds me of pithy high school memories, the bleak cinder-block walls, the abused, scarred countertops, the cabinet whose particle board door is starting to resemble Feta crumbles, and that horrible monster living under the sink that I must pacify with scraps of vegetables or fruit peels mixed with water—none of this appeals to me. I was ready to dislike everything from the dim lighting to the dip in the floor.

Earlier today, I read a blog post by Becoming Madame about French kitchens, and I’m whisked away to Paris on a plane built of words and photographs. Copper pots, a quaint, antiquated feel rather than a tacky, antediluvian atmosphere that could suffocate a technoholic, and well-placed lighting that would secure the functionality of my eyes for years to come. Apparently, French kitchens commonly have windows (a novel concept!) with fresh herbs growing out on the sills (naturally free of charge and full of love!—which, might I add, makes soup taste even better), and sometimes, they have these rustic, knotted pine cabinets (made of genuine wood!). For one brief moment before beginning my three-hour shift, I could almost see myself in a French kitchen, spacious and liberated, waltzing among copper pans and chandeliers, throwing down a hardy bowl of Vichyssoise or French onion and having lunch among my many copper assistants.

And now, only moments after having scarfed a peanut butter and chocolate muffin in front of my computer, I realize that the culprit is not the kitchen itself. That miniscule space is not to blame for its design. I now find myself serving my bitter blame to the table, who obdurately and obstinately refuses to be wieldy, who takes up valuable space that could have been more counter and cabinets.

I never eat at the table. I’m always at my desk laboring away (sometimes more languidly than I should be) on this novel or that paper, or else staring hard into the face of my computer and trying to figure out why the words I’ve put on the screen are not as pungent as they were in my head (perhaps it only lacks a dash of salt). Otherwise, I’m at the coffee table, sitting on the couch and sharing whatever I’m eating with Dickens or Emily Brontë. In the rare event that I dine with company, I kneel at the coffee table after the manner of the Japanese, sitting on one of my orange throw pillows, and my friend either joins me or sits on the couch. The only one who has ever sat in any one of its four chairs is George Foreman, and the only reason he’s there is because there isn’t enough counter space to accommodate him. My sun tea jar occupies another. They sit in limbo, waiting for a meal that will never come. The top is littered with all manner of miscellanea: a steamer I received as a Christmas gift, napkins from chain restaurants I’ve turned to when I haven’t had the appetite for cooking, recipes that haven’t been touched in two months because I hardly ever follow them, or else I keep a permanent copy on my hard drive, recyclable grocery bags, old receipts cataloguing the ghost of goulash past.

I hate my table in silence. I don’t think it knows the truth, that my avoidance of spending time with it is actually my way of expressing revulsion. In its stead, I could have enough counter space for my food processor, which lives in the bottom drawer, and my toaster and coffee pot, which perch on top of my microwave like a mismatched pair of oxpeckers on a rhinoceros. That table and its four chairs mock me. They are five altogether, and I am nothing more than the last bowl of soup in a cold, dark fridge cluttered with the bread of a notion, some pungent crumbles of inspiration, and a smattering of sentiments (the usual culprits), waiting to be warmed.

I can hate that table all I want for spoiling the potential, but it’s still here.

And for the moment, so am I, even if I think I may be going rotten from waiting for so long.

Last week, I was at a local organic food store with my colleague and friend Elvira. In the one and a half years that I have lived in this town, I have resisted the urge to purchase some red lentils from them. Finding that resistance significantly weaker than in the past, I purchased two pounds of them for use in future culinary expeditions. After filling one of my canisters with them, I reflected on my first encounter with this strange little legume.

“What are you cooking, dad?” I asked, walking into the kitchen.

“Lentil soup.”

“What in the heck is a lentil?” I shamefully admit that at the age of twenty-one, I had not heard of a lentil.

“It’s a bean.”

“Oh.” If it was a bean, then it was acceptable. After all, I happen to have an affinity for beans. “What else is going to be in it?”

“Well, I’m using red lentils because they have a thinner skin, and I’m going to put some Andoullie sausage in there.” I could tell he was excited because the pitch of his voice had gone up a bit, his eye brows were raised, and his mustache tried without success to hide his smile.

“Sounds good. I can’t wait to try it.” And try it, I did. For years afterwards, I begged him to make another batch, but he never did. He made Italian lentil soup once, which was not quite as good because it contains panchetta and I am not a huge fan of bacon. During one trip home, I finally got the Middle Eastern version of the dish at a restaurant called Ya Halla. There are no words to describe this euphoric bowl of pureed lentils and chicken broth. It had distinct undertones of cumin and coriander. I think there may have been turmeric in it. Whatever the combination of ingredients, I knew there was no going back from that little slice of paradise, found at a table with no one else but my parents. As for my own lentil soup, it had a lot of growing to do. I decided I must pay a true homage to this particular dish, one that I only became familiar with in my early adulthood.

Lentil soup was not the first soup I cooked when I moved out. I tried my hand at it several times before getting the knack of it, adding chicken and kale for good measure, then finally discovering coriander and throwing it into the mix. Batches have gone to sick coworkers and fed a visiting friend from home, and even if it was a relatively recent culinary discovery, I still have an inexplicable affinity for lentils that no one in my family understands and I can’t even properly verbalize. There is just something quaint about these hearty packs of nutrients that appeals to me. I feel akin to them somehow. Maybe it’s the fact that I remember my dad when I eat them even if I happen to be knee-deep in my thesis while I’m swallowing a bowl of it. Maybe I am something like a lentil, a small bean with thin skin who would have no skill in writing if not for my friends holding me up, their thoughts steeling into my head at random times when I’m eating alone. Maybe the lentils represent time, each bean a savory moment that nourishes my mind, or maybe these lentils are my mind–maybe each lentil is a grain of knowledge in my head that, without other grains, is nothing more than a dry and hardened fact. These facts only become something when they are immersed in the stock of experience, combined with a flourish of root vegetables, and seasoned with the smoke and citrus of the everyday.

Or maybe it’s just the simple fact that they taste really good.

Chicken and Red Lentil Soup for the Sole

Ingredients

  • 3 baby carrots, diced
  • ½ stalk of celery (or a few smaller ones), diced
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 1 ¼ cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 2 chicken strips, frozen
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp cumin, separated into two 1 tsp servings
  • 1 ½ tsp coriander, separated into one 1 tsp serving and one ½ tsp serving
  • 1 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup water

Directions

  1. Add olive oil to pan. Saute celery, onions, and carrots for about 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add 1 tsp cumin and ½ tsp coriander to vegetables. Saute for an additional 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add stock, water, lemon juice, remaining cumin and coriander, bay leaf, black pepper, and chicken strips. Simmer for 30 minutes or until lentils are thoroughly cooked.
  4. Remove chicken pieces and bay leaf. Puree about 1 ½ cups of the lentil mixture in a food processor or blender (you could also use an immersion blender for this). Add to the remaining soup, turn the burner on low, and combine.
  5. Discard bay leaf. Shred chicken strips with a fork and return to pot. Stir in and simmer an additional five minutes.
  6. Just before serving, add an additional dash of cumin and coriander (because they are excellent).

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A New Pan Shall Rise

The pan costs me less than lunch.

“You can’t go and buy one at WalMart,” Andreah insists for the third time, adding one of her characteristic “Ewwww!”s to further convince me that this is not the best idea I’ve ever had. We are eating at Los Aztecas, a local Mexican restaurant, and as usual, the food is delicious.

Yesterday, I explained my rationale for shopping at WalMart to Elvira, an exchange student from the Ukraine, as we were driving to the local organic food store. “I don’t advocate shopping there by any means because I’ve heard they mistreat their employees.” Andreah had worked there for three weeks as a cart pusher and was forced to work through her breaks. The company got caught a few years later, and she got a reimbursement check for about eighty dollars. “But,” I added, “I’m a broke college student. If and when I ever get a decent paying job one day, I’ll shop at better stores.” She tells me the bread is better in the Ukraine because they don’t process the flour so much. Later, at the coffee shop, she tells me about her Russian friends who bought a bread maker. A single bagel costs them about fifty cents to make. Someday, I will make my own bread. For the moment, I consider it an achievement that I’ve boycotted canned soup (but not canned stock, which just needs a little help. The overcooked starches and vegetables and the bits of unidentified meat the size of a pea and the texture of dog food are beyond the aid of every culinary wizard I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. This includes my father, who I have dubbed Iron Chef Michigan).

As the enchiladas verde begin to digest, I am hit with my mid-afternoon, overly full fatigue. I watch the thick layer of Michigan snow melt. “Just buy it at Target,” Andreah insists. I remind her that Starbucks is a bit of a corporate bastard, too. She tried it for the first time yesterday and agrees that Kaya, the local place, is better.  I’m not sure if my dad would agree with our opinions. He has been roasting his own coffee beans for almost three years now. I’m sure he thinks all coffee, excluding his own, tastes like motor oil.

When I leave the restaurant, I steer towards WalMart. Their parking lot looks like ten quarts of soup in a four-quart pot. It’s one in the afternoon on a Saturday, so I’m not shocked. I hastily navigate across the slush-covered asphalt and enter the doors. I nearly bump into a middle-aged woman with a full cart, weaving around and performing her own shopping tasks with little regard to the rest of us. I’m tempted to say, “So you’re the chicken in chicken noodle soup? Big deal. You’re not the only one in this pot, so move over and give the rest of us some room.” Instead, I weave between the aisles unhindered by a cart, and by the time she has arrived at the main aisle, I’ve already planted myself firmly in cookware.

I take one look at a two-quart sauce pan.

I’m definitely going to need something a little bigger. I inwardly chuckle at the strange reversal of circumstances, knowing that I usually fill my bowl a little to high at meal times. I don’t want to do the same with a pot. No… it needs to have a little extra room. Otherwise, it will be crowded like the aisles, and I won’t be able to move anything around without creating a fire hazard or crushing something. A three-quart pan would give me room to stir, so I peruse WalMart’s selection.

Double boiler and convertible sauce pan. Both would serve my purpose since both include a three-quart pan and lid as two of the pieces. Both are about twenty-five dollars out of my price range.

“Maybe there is something more,” I tell myself, navigating the aisles. I see Paula Deen cookware, which is even farther out of my price range. Small appliances, coffee and tea makers, and then the main aisle. As I walk, my thoughts are stewing. I could afford a thirty-dollar pan, right? But it seems foolish to spend that much when I bought my eight-quart stainless steel pot for six dollars. I go back to the aisle and stare at my options for a moment longer, then get stepped on by a polite gentleman whose wife attempted to warn him. He apologizes jovially. I smile. “It’s alright. I wasn’t paying attention, either.” And I wasn’t. I was thinking about how I should have just gone to Target in the first place.

The aisles were more placid. I only passed a young couple with an infant girl.

Target apparently divides its cookware by affordability. One aisle is devoted to pans within the budget of a graduate assistant. The other is for people who do not have degrees in English. I look through both and am drawn to a gem of a pot, a 3.2-quart aluminum pan whose cost deters me. “You are not the one,” I say. Neither are any of the ones in aisle two of cookware, whose prices mock my scant budget. I return to the cost-effective pan aisle, studying my possibilities thoroughly. After all, this pan is going to be my sous chef for the next fourteen weeks. I need it to be qualified for the job. I line them up for a group interview.

“How do you handle yourself when someone lights a fire under your ass?”

“I’m… sorry?” one of the candidates stammer.

“I mean how hot does it make you? Does the oil start to smoke within two minutes, or do you take longer to warm up to the idea of being under pressure?”

They’re made of metal, but they can’t even handle the heat.

“What is your philosophy on spices? Should they be measured before being added?” I demand next.

“Never! Just dump them right in from the canister!”

“Always! With Paula Deen brand measuring spoons for added class! Only $9.99!”

There are only two ways I measure spices: by sight and by taste. Palm and eye, then stir and try. If it tastes like enough, then it’s enough. I’m not a cooking chemist; I’m more like an alchemist, transforming canned broth into a pot of gold.

Things finally begin to pan out when I remove a three-quart sauce pan by Faberware from its place on the wall. The nonstick grip feels sturdy and reliable. The weight is just right. The glass lid is topped by a knob that seems to be made for my short fingers and broad palms. I take the lucky pan to the book section under pretense of thinking about it, but I’ve already made up my mind. It is the only one of its brethren left in the store, one of a batch of countless identical twins. Much like me, this pan is a loner.

I have little choice over the gas stove in my one-bedroom apartment, but as for my crucible… this is it. Lunch fed me for an hour. This pan will feed me for a long time.

My lunch costs nine dollars with tip. My new sous chef only costs me six dollars and thirty-one cents after tax.

A week is too long to think about the subject matter and form of a final project, and all the hot showers in the world were not helping me come up with any new ideas. I’d scrub every other contemplation from my mind night after night in my homemade sauna, and still, nothing new trickled out of my head. The same old thought clogged my brain. Blog. I spent some quality time with my favorite band, hoping their eclectic juxtaposition of bass and bagpipes would loosen the mental obstruction, burst a pipe, do something. My whole life started backing up. As I read the last of Wuthering Heights for the fourth time in just as many years, my to-do list stared me mockingly in the face.

“There’s no further point in thinking,” it told me. “Just look how I’ve glutted myself on bowls and bowls of your inaction. Best soup I ever had.”

The suggestion of blogging came from Maye, a friend and colleague who happens to be a fan of my music as well as my cooking. The trouble was it had no substance. It needed something. The idea itself was insipid and unpalatable. It had potential, much like canned broth, but what seasoning could I throw into it? Was it missing black pepper or bay leaves? Should the starch be potatoes or noodles? And did I still have some shredded carrots to add some color, or had I used the rest of them in the venison stir fry Maye and I had just collectively cooked and consumed?

The solution was simple: I needed to use what I already had in the fridge, and I needed to stir it.

Two days after sending an e-mail, I visited my professor. “My skill set outside of writing is rather limited,” I explained. “I cook and knit. Other than that, I’m not remarkable in any sense.” As a fellow soup connoisseur, Dr. Mary Wendt and I had already conversed about our mutual appreciation of and frequent indulgence in soup. We discussed Julie and Julia, a work I haven’t had the pleasure of indulging in.

“There needs to be a twist to this food blog, and something like that might work. You could try all of the pastas, or all of the different kinds of one particular food.” This was a welcome pinch of salt to the inert pan of water on the stove. It wasn’t boiling, but at least it was a change.

“I’ve been living alone for about a year and a half, ever since I came to grad school,” I informed her. “It’s my first time on my own.”

“It’s hard to cook soup for one person.” I nodded. “So, since you live alone, why don’t you blog soup recipes for one person?”

“Is that even possible?”

“Well, yeah. I mean, each recipe could make more than two servings.”

Her words lit a burner in my brain and set my thoughts stewing.

“I’m going to need a two-quart pan,” I commented, “and a title.”

Apparently, soup lovers are title haters. Coming up with the right phrase to capture something so profoundly simple as a blog about soup recipes for people living alone, seasoned with the musings of the chef and customer, poses a challenge. It’s like trying to make cream of potato soup without the cream. “You prefer chicken, so could do some kind of Chicken Soup for the Soul thing,” Mary stated.

“Hold on, hold on,” I said. “What about Chicken Soup for the Sole, as in S-O-L-E? Like, sole as in single person.”

My thoughts were at a pleasantly rolling boil, seasoned with anticipation. The idea was four-star. As an English major, I hardly expected to be assigned cooking, let alone eating. I bowled up my thoughts and let them coagulate, reading in the interim, which brings me to the moment of truth, the one where I set down the rules for this culinary excursion. Serenaded by my favorite band, my fingers dance across the keyboard, my mind at a steady simmer, and I write myself a briefing:

Operation: Chicken Soup for the Sole

Your mission, should you choose to accept: Blog for the next fourteen weeks (and beyond?) about soup recipes for a single person using your soon-to-be purchased two-quart pan (without which this saga will be impossible). Pair with some warm, crusty, multi-grained thoughts, reflections, and recollections for extra substance. There are three rules to the soup:

  1. Each soup must include chicken as an ingredient.
    1a: All soups do not necessarily have to use a chicken base. Other bases (e.g., cream, tomato) will also be permitted.
  2. Each soup must yield no more than 4 servings.
  3. As the word “chicken” is typically paired with another ingredient (examples: Chicken noodle soup, chicken rice soup, chicken tortilla soup), no second ingredient can appear more than twice within the course of this 14 week period.
    3a: The aromatics of onion, celery, and carrots, as well as seasonings, are exceptions to this rule, as they are flavorings and rather than focuses.
    3b: Should the blog stretch beyond this fourteen-week trial run, this rule will no longer be in effect.

I’ve done good work today, cooking up this first blog entry. If nothing else, this promises to be one hell of a delicious semester.