Friday, November 2, 2007

In Praise of Dropping The Ball

Sit down.
I am about to change your life.

I am many things, if not just these two; A lover of soup and a collector of recipes.
There is a marked difference betweeen collecting and hoarding.
A collector is someone who gathers similar items for the sake of personal satisfaction, and will often display said items for others to appreciate and enjoy.
A hoarder however, is someone who gathers items not only for enjoyment, but for personal gain as well, and suspiciously protects them from others.

Hoarders of recipes are like wolves in sheep's clothing.
They will fool you. They will carefully pen heirloom recipes on personalized stationery for your benefit--with the omission of a critical ingredient or step--resulting in your personal, culinary failure.
These are naughty people.

One unfortunate day in my long-ago past involved one recipe for Matzoh Ball Soup and a once- trusted colleague-turned hoarder. The end result included a too-salty broth, and beige blobs which oddly resembled those moisture-laden wads that clung to my junior-high lavatory ceiling.
That was the first, and last time I attempted to make that soup.
In my opinion, the winning combination of matzoh meal, club soda and schmaltz, among other ingredients, involves wizardry best left to loving Jewish grandmothers.

I have yet to find a good Matzoh Ball Soup in convenience packaging. In fact, I'm not sure one exists. So, when I have a yen for said soup, I have two choices.
The first (and not always practical), is to crash a Jewish wedding, long enough to enjoy the first course.
The second (and more reasonable) is to make (or, dare I say, purchase a can of) my second favorite "brothy" soup, Italian Wedding Soup.

On a not-so busy day, not so long ago, I purchased a variety of soups from my local market. These would serve as my reliable stand-by's for the hectic evenings when a home-cooked meal would be no more than a fleeting fantasy.

It was on this same day that I caught the tail end of a repeat episode of Rachael Ray's Thirty Minute Meals. I discovered coincidentally, that the entire episode was dedicated to soup (including, but not limited to, her infamous "stoup.").
She boasted that because homemade soup was so easy to prepare, she had never and likely would never eat soup from a can. She implied that by feeding my family soup from a can, I would consciously be 'dropping the ball.'
She implied that canned-soup was just wrong.
I carefully removed the knife from my heart and vowed that I too, would never again burden my loved ones with the unpalatable task of eating canned soup.
It's a good thing I didn't donate those soup cans as I had intended however, because my soup-covenant was broken two days later.

On one particularly hectic evening, I had two pots and one pan on the stove top. One pot contained a can of Italian Wedding Soup for hubby and me, and the other pot contained a popular, kid-inspired soup from a red and white can, for my teenage son-- the hater (definition of this term appears in a previous post). The pan was intended for one of our simple favorites, grilled cheese (after all, soup without a sandwich just might be a felony here in the states).

While the soup slowly simmered, I headed to the fridge for ingredients. Imagine my horror when I discovered only three slices of American cheese (and around here, three slices of cheese does not a sandwich make). I diligently searched each shelf of my refrigerator for anything that resembled cheese. I happened upon a container
of cheese that although was not flat-sandwich-friendly,
would change my life forever.
"Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus."

With minutes left on the clock before each of us would head in different directions, I made my son a quick (if not skinny) grilled cheese sandwich and poured him a bowl of soup.
I quickly buttered two slices of multi-grain bread (for the purpose of qualifying this as a 'healthful meal': there were whole grains, and it was light butter).
And then, the magic happened.

I retrieved our favorite soup mugs from the cabinet. I pulled the plastic top from a heavy, liquid-laden container which hid glorious white orbs of milky, creamy goodness. I fished with my slotted spoon through the murky water and scooped three, then four of the delightful little masses with symphonic names like "Bocconcini" and "Ciliegine" (aka fresh, tiny Mozzarella balls).
I dropped the little white balls into our mugs. I poured the hot soup over them. I called hubby to the table and made no mention of my epiphany.
We sat, with the intention of eating at the hurried pace that is common around here on weeknights. But time stood still, if just for a moment. We were transported back to a time when the prize at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box, really seemed like a prize.
The chewy, stringy surprise raised from the depths of savory broth on this chaotic, suburban Thursday, replaced hubby's furrowed brow with a welcome, peaceful grin. And although there was nary a sandwich in site, our bellies were full and we were happy.
Try this at home. It will change your life.

For those of us who like to cook, making soup is inevitable. If not simply for the medicinal qualities of a lovingly prepared stock, then for the thrill of replicating a restaurant favorite.
But this is reality folks. There will be days when we have only enough time to be crafty in our interpretation of a quick meal.
And in the spirit of the aforementioned wolves, see what happens when you announce your soup and sandwich as
'Consomme of whatever,' with 'Panini.'

Around here, life dictates what's for dinner. If you share a meal (any meal) with family, you've conquered half the battle (the most significant half).
And now that you know my little cheesy secret, go ahead,
drop the ball---they'll thank you for it.

Until Next Time,
Make Life Delicious
Share Your Food


**DISCLAIMER: I like Rachael--she's a good egg. And I like Thirty Minute Meals-- in the same manner that I like thirty-minute, hot showers, and the opportunity to shave both legs in one day.

No comments: