Sunday, November 8, 2015

Writing Down the Bone Soup

A writer friend, Penelope la Montagne, posted on Facebook, that she was grateful for the "clean your refrigerator kind of soup." Nothing quite like homemade soup on a chilly day, made from fridge leftovers and a can of chicken broth. You can never quite replicate the exact goodness each time you made it. But it always warms the "ccckies of your heart," said Penelope. That made me giggle. What kind of cookies? Oreos?

I guess the fridge leftovers are crucial components of making decent stone soup. Sometimes it's called nail soup. But stone soup has a better ring to it than nail soup. Eww, not those kind of nail parings. Though if you had enough of hooves, I suppose it would work. Or you might wind up with a pot of glue to hang that hideous wallpaper you've been saving. 

How to make stone soup. First, you begin with a large pot, better wash it out. When's the last time you used it? I mean, really. Oh, the cat was hiding in it? Now, nearly fill it (the pot, not the cat) with some water, and then add your well-scrubbed magic rock. No, not the pet rock! Then wait for your guests to arrive bearing gifts for the pot. And maybe some pot.

I made some magic soup the other night. A poet friend was sick; but we were having a CPITS meeting at my house, so I offered to make chicken soup. 

First, I emptied the contents of my fridge into my soup pot, and then added a box of vegetable broth and another box of chicken broth. But, to my dismay, I discovered that I had no stashed chicken, not in the freezer, nor in my emergency food stash.  

And to add insult to injury, I'd used up the rest of the good garlic for the last of the summer pesto. I had garlic, but it was Chinese, and I wasn't about to use it. Never buy garlic sans roots, it's Chinese and it never sprouts, or grows, if you plant it. They do something to it, and that can't be good.

So I asked John Oliver Simon to bring me some real garlic. Then, I asked him to bring me some chicken. Then, I needed some celery, and parsley to go with it. Parsley is great for the heart.

Perhaps I should interject here that John is an ex. I never thought I'd ever see the day when John would be sitting in my kitchen waiting for the soup to boil, without my wanting to murder him. Ironically, I'm scamnning and transcribing bit of old journals so his name keeps popping up. Must be the homing pigeon return cycle.

Tobey Kaplan brought potstickers, spring rolls, and wine. Lots of wine. You know how poets are. We tossed some potstickers into the broth, drank some wine, and bowed down to the soup pot, grateful for its bounty. And we said yum. The thick chicken soup was divine, and it fed multitudes of poets. Well, it fed almost a dozen of us. The wine, not so much.

For dessert, Fred Dodsworth brought bananas and crisp persimmons that glowed like low winter suns on the horizon, no cookies, though. Speaking of cookies, nobody brought any—not even the Chinese fortune kind. No cookies or cockles to warm the heart.

(I've been obsessed with cookies lately: zapping computer cookies and obsolete deep file preferences, after I discovered a Firefox add-on I was using to watch BBC, was a disguised botnet.

All Maxine Chernoff's files were held hostage by Bitcoin malware and she had to pay a poet's ransom to get her writing back. That also happened to Eileen Malone too. I was terrified at the thought of losing all my writing. Maxine got all her files back. Eileen was not so lucky.

Sure, I've got all my files backed up on separate hard drives, but they're attached to the computer. Piece a cake for a botnet to access it via the back door port, firewall be damned. Yeah, I have a Mac, it's less likely to be attacked by botnet malware. And my friends are both are PC users. Friends don't let friends use Windows. I guess I deleted an important file, the Finder keeps crashing.)

Which led me on a circuitous path from cookies to cockles and muscles (stet), to canned soup, to a former neighbor's noisy young urban balcony-raised cockerels (no coop), whose bones probably made the best chicken soup ever.

I witnessed their demise (the chickens, not the Ethiopians) one Sunday at dawn. Well, I witnessed their shadow's demise on the wall, as the Ethiopian woman sang to the rising sun and held the unlucky fellows up to the sun before the coup de gras.

I was horrified to see an article circulating on Facebook by a young urbanite chef on how to make "bone" soup. And folks cooing: oh, I wanna learn that, or shrieking: gross! (There was even an "I know, I know," eye-rolling ewww /squee component embedded in the article.) The tin can generation is dumb and dumber. Even the phrase, tin can is lost on them. Foil-lined box generation. How do they think chicken broth is made anyway?

In our house, soup was a pilgrimage of sorts. My grannie never threw bones away. Into the pot they went. We always saved the skin, gristle and connective tissue too. Nothing wasted, except the squawk a doodle do.

Add onion skins, garlic, carrots, celery, peppercorns, bay leaves, and wine, or vinegar, and simmer slowly 1-2 hours, until the gristle falls off the rubbery bones, and skim any scum. Strain broth into a clean pot. Add fresh vegetables (see above list), orzo, or barley, bring it to a boil for 15 minutes (barley needs an hour), skim, season. If it jells when cooled, you made it right.

Well, what about the dawg bone, you might ask: fuggedaboutit. It was a case of get in line, after the stewpot. Sort of like Saturday bath night (one tub of water, and three people waiting in line). Yep, it was a stiff broth, all right, by the time my little brother got into it.

And what about warming the cockles of the heart? I always thought it had to do with spoiled mollusks, so that saying always puzzled me. Then I thought cockles were associated with Molly Malone's cockles and mussels in Dublin's fair city. Cookies and cockles, alive alive, oh. Uh-oh, the Cookie Monster....and the tart with the cart.

Then, speaking of pilgrimages of the heart, I thought maybe the cockles were a reference to St. James. Pilgrims wore cockle, or scallop shells around their necks as they walked the Camino.

So I joked, mussels is muscles, which is true, as muscle, mussel and mouse all stem from the same root word. Warms your mousy little heart muscle, doesn't it? I never associated it with ventricles, or cochlea. Some Easter egg hunt that was. 

All this to say is that writing is never a very straight line. 

Cockles, shells? Is St. James being invoked? Or the Cookie Monster?


The Old Forest Ranger; Or, Wild Sports of India on the ...

Walter CAMPBELL (Colonel.) - 1842
exclaimed Mansfield, in astonishment. “ Aha, lads !~thcre 's something to warm the cookies of your heart. I hae been sair stinted in my drink, since I left the Hills, ...

Frank Leslie's Sunday Magazine

1886 - American literature
"Ellen, we'll open that last jar of the old potheen, and I'll brew a bowl of punch, fit to warm the cookies of your heart, Geoflrey, my lad." "All right, father; it's cold ...

The London Journal: and Weekly Record of Literature, ...

1878  “1 like a well-seasoned sentiment which warms the cookies of your heart, like scorching spit-ed ale." “Ay, ay, sir !" shouted the boatswain, jumping to his feet, and...

warm the cockles of someone's heart - Wiktionary

17th century, Unknown, possibly due to resemblance of cockles to hearts. Alternatively, may be corruption of Latin cochleae in cochleae cordis (“ventricles of heart”), or of Irish Gaelic origin. Possibly also inspired by mollusks opening when exposed to warmth,

"The cockles of the heart are its ventricles, named by some in Latin as "cochleae cordis", from "cochlea" (snail), alluding to their shape. The saying means to warm and gratify one's deepest feelings."

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