The family enjoying homemade soup and NCIS Los Angeles

If there is one meal that speaks comfort to me, it is a bowl of homemade soup with cornbread.  My mom made this soup a lot when we were growing up and it was probably the first recipe I learned to make.  I have memories of making it when I was 5.  You may not believe me, but I did!  I have lots of preschool memories, plenty from 2 and 3 years of age.

The memory that stands out regarding the homemade soup is from Kindergarten.  While in kindergarten, my Grandad and Uncle Kenny picked me up from school and kept me while my mother ran her afternoon bus route.  I absolutely adored both of those men and loved seeing them waiting for me after school.  One of those days the subject of dinner came up.  I informed them that I could cook homemade soup and they let me.  This must have  been one of the reasons that I loved hanging out with them, they let me do a lot that my mother would not have turned me loose on.

Homemade soup is a simple affair with basic ingredients, which is usually the case with comfort food.  One pound of ground meat and chopped potatoes boiled fork tender are the base of the soup. After that, its any one’s game.  Mostly, corn, green beans, English peas, carrots and stewed tomatoes are added.  At this time, canned veggies were common place in the kitchen and because they are already cooked, once the meat is browned and potatoes boiled, it is just a matter of assembly and bringing to a boil.  I had watched my mother do it many times and I am sure that she had let me pour in the cans of vegetables.

I have no idea how long it took me to peel the potatoes and brown the meat.  However, I received no burns or cuts, so it must have been going pretty well.  Just before I was getting ready to pour the veggies in the pot, Uncle Kenny  came in the kitchen.   Now in my five year old brain, I knew that you didn’t pour off the water in the cans of vegetables because this juice has lots of vitamins in it as did the water that held the potatoes.  What did not compute in my little brain was that all the contents of the cans, the pot, and the browned meat would not fit in the stock pot I was using.  Kenny walked in and saw what was going to happen if I attempted to put all this in the same pot.  Now, I was fit to be tied that he had come in the kitchen and was insisting on draining the canned veggies!

To fully understand just how mad I was, you would have had to have had first hand knowledge of what it was like to be Kenny Ray’s niece.  He hung the moon as far as I was concerned.  But, he would pick and aggravate until you were ready to inflict bodily harm.  The problem was that, being about a dozen years older than me, he was too big for me to actually do any damage- except to myself.  Like one time, I was so infuriated with him that I decided that I was going to kick him in the shin.  That was a great idea until he lifted his foot up and I kicked the bottom of his cowboy boot.  My toes were black and blue for weeks.  Of course, I would start crying and run and tattle- only to be told ” Don’t come crying to me, you know what is going to happen when you start playing with Kenny, why do you keep going back?”  Why?  I don’t know, we just loved him.  He was kinda like chocolate, you just can’t leave it alone.  He was the Uncle all the little kids adored. Period.

So, he had a history of making me mad and as far as I was concerned this was just one more injustice at his hand.  Stomping angrily, I left the kitchen determined not to participate in the ruining of a perfectly good pot of soup.  In due time I was told dinner was ready.  Being hungrier than I was miffed, I went to get my soup.  As we sat in the living room watching tv- which would have either been cartoons or westerns depending on whether or not he picked the program or I did- we ate our soup in silence.  After a few minutes, he looked over at me and said, “Now, isn’t this good soup?”  To which I replied, “I’ve had better”  I can still remember the look of shock and humor in his eyes and then he replied, ” So have I, but if we hadn’t drained the water it would have overflowed.”  The truth was, as much as I hated to admit it, it was good soup.  I loved it, but I just couldn’t give him the satisfaction of telling him so.

If you doubt that a five year old is capable of all this and remembering, you just don’t know me.  I did and if you ask any of my cousins you will know that everything I have said about Kenny is the honest to God truth.  Between Uncle Kenny and my mom’s homemade soup, I had a very rich childhood.

Uncle Kenny, still a favorite with the nieces and nephews!

Recipe for Homemade Soup

1 lb of ground meat or ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 medium potatoes peeled and chopped
2-3 cups of mixed veggies- any kind you like
1- 13 once can of stewed tomatoes
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

In medium skillet, brown the ground met with the onions.  In an  8 qt stock pot or dutch oven (you can use a larger stock pot- then you don’t have to worry about over-filling) bring water and potatoes to a boil.  Add enough water to boil the potatoes, but not so much that you have to pour a lot off, because the water does have lots of nutrients in it.  If you are using fresh or frozen veggies, add them now.  Boil until the potatoes are fork tender.  Add the ground meat, stewed tomatoes  and veggies- if you are using canned or leftovers.  Add seasonings and more water or broth as needed to achieve the desired consistency.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes then let  cool a bit.  This soup is great with cornbread or crackers.

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