Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Feel The Love And Taste The Soup

Happy Valentine's Day all!
After my last (rather grumpy) post (sorry!) I have been in a great mood. GREAT! I don't actually (<--that word was for you Richard) know why. There are lots of reasons I could still be grumpy: flu like virus has applied for resident status, cold rain turned into snow, it's still February. On the flip side, the tide has turned and here are my guesses why: the days are getting longer, I have no stress, I am EXCITED about my training. And? Mr. Tapioca Head let me know there was a show featuring building with cob on last night. How decent was that? It's a little known fact about me, but I'm a cob fanatic. Of the armchair variety. I haven't had the chance to work with it yet but it is in my future. I know it. I know it the way you just know some things about yourself.

In other news, I am in the middle of making homemade chicken soup for the first time ever. I buy canned chicken stock and cook with it all the time. Seriously, like four times a week. Yet last week when I went to the store, the labels on the cans were all different and I didn't see the one I usually buy. I resorted to reading the labels to decide which to get. (<--That, by the way, only confused me more as they all seemed more or less the same. In the end, it was the price stickers, not the labels that decided me.) One label got me thinking. It bragged "Voted #1 Most Like Homemade". You know, I'm not sure that I would have been qualified to participate in that voting. I can't think that I've ever had homemade chicken soup! Not to bust on my mom or anything. She is a great cook and makes delicious soups from scratch. She just happens to make things like potato-leek soup and gazpacho. Not chicken. Maybe my aunt has made some that I've eaten? I don't know. I do know that I've never made it before.

Unlike my secret cob enthusiasm, it's a well known fact that I have issues with chicken. Particularly with the gross bits - like the bones and the cartilege and the stringy vein things and even like chicken breasts in the form of slimy raw slabs on my cutting board. BLECK. I don't eat drumsticks or wings or thighs. Ever. Many have been the days when I have done all the dinner prep but have been unable to force myself to cut the gooey chicken breasts. Luckily for the children who like more than salad for supper, SH and VBGF are not nearly so squeamish and one or the other has stepped in to do the cutting. VBGF has even taught me the trick of cutting chicken breasts while they're still partly frozen. This is brilliant! Chicken is way less disgusting when it is semi-frozen. Which brings us back to the crazy idea of me making chicken soup. From scratch. Well, at least from grocery store scratch. It's not like I killed the chicken and plucked its feathers out or anything. Store bought ingredients are close enough to scratch for me!

It sounds easy. The main ingredient is a 3-4 pound chicken cut up into 8 or 9 pieces. How hard can it be to buy a chicken? Let me tell you! I looked through the entire poultry section at the grocery and no joy. I saw all the parts separately. I saw chicken breasts stuffed and ready to grill. I saw seasoned chicken wings ready to heat. I saw whole chicken "roasters" with pop up thermometers imbedded in the frozen chicken flesh. I saw already cooked rotisserie chickens. I saw not one plain old, raw, whole chicken. I felt foolish asking the butcher about it, but I needn't have. They didn't have any out. He said that he'd just had to throw away a bunch that had gone past their sell dates. He seemed miffed that here it was cold and flu season and no one was buying his whole chickens. "Perfect for making soup with," he said to me. "Fantastic, because that's what I'm doing, for the first time ever." I said to him. He was more than happy to go get me a fresh one that had just arrived and he even offered to cut it up into 8 or 9 pieces for me. That was nice and all, but I have to say that the package was completely slimy when he handed it to me. I almost abandoned the whole project then and there. The project was even more imperiled when I got home.

I wasn't sure I could touch the chicken. I could barely stand to look at it as I opened the package. I did, in fact, turn my head as I dumped the styrofoam package into the pot. (This bit of information is important in a minute.) I added cold water and chunked up veggies (including a parsnip - because I LOVE parsnips). I didn't see the instruction to add the "cleaned" chicken to the pot until later. I have no idea what cleaning a chicken involves. Is it part of the chopping process? Is it just a matter of rinsing? Surely there's no soap involved. Be that as it may, I inadvertently skipped this step in my anxiety over how to get the 8-9 pieces into the pot without touching or looking at them. Still, we bubbled along for the rest of the afternoon. The kitchen smelled heavenly. The children literally SHOUTED at me from the garage. "That smells GREAT! Is that dinner?!" (No, we had clam sauce spaghetti - from scratch, no bones - last night. The soup is for Thursday.)

I was feeling pretty proud of myself. I don't have any fancy way to separate the fat out of the soup so I followed the instruction about putting the whole pot into the fridge overnight. This morning Sweet Hubby went to work late. (It is, after all, Valentine's Day and we have lots of children who stay awake longer than I do, but who are handily all in school by 8:30 am.) As he was leaving, I was getting ready for Homemade Chicken Soup - Day 2. He admired my efforts thus far and offered to help with the next steps. THANK GOD! I am really trying to get over being so easily squicked out, but there were bones and globby bits and lumps of chicken skin roiling around in the pot. Intellectually, I have no issue with these things. I'm not even close to a vegetarian. You might could get me sad about the plight of veal in its baby cow days, but chickens? Have you seen live chickens? Have you smelled them? I have no guilt over eating them or problems with the fact that the disgusting bits are the very bits that make the soup taste delicious. However, it's those bits bubbling about that make me gag uncontrollably. Don't you wish you could cook with ME?

"My" first chicken soup is a joint project. As Sweet Hubby was separating out the ooky parts, he asked me how I had handled the little paper package with the unmentionables like the heart and gizzard*. I told him that this chicken didn't come with that. "Uh huh," he says, "Well, here's the thing. You know those parts are very good for the flavoring, right?" Yes, yes, yes. I explained the part where it's not my brain but my tummy that objects to those parts and I probably would have put them in they'd been there (and if I could have done so without throwing up). "The reason I ask is, I just took some of them out. Now I'm wondering about the paper." Oh hey, it doesn't tell you so in the recipe, but take it from me that you should LOOK at those 8-9 chicken pieces as you dump them in the pot otherwise you might end up with bonus cellulose.

Anyone want to join us at table tomorrow night for homemade chicken and paper soup?

**Gizzards. When I was a little girl, you could get gizzards on Tuesdays from Kentucky Fried Chicken. You may be surprised to learn that this was a huge treat for me and my little sister. My father (who loves all vegetables without exception and eats weird foods in general) does not eat fast food or desserts. He'll have second helpings of collard greens; he'll fight you for the last escargot on the plate; and he can tell the difference between brands of capers - but he will not go through a drive thru. Not for money or love. Only he used to - for gizzards. On Tuesdays. On the premise of getting "treats" for Tidget and me. I don't know when they stopped selling them and I don't know if I'd be game for having them again if they made a surprise comeback at KFC, but I have fond memories of gizzard night with my dad. What's the weirdest food you've ever eaten?

1 comment:

Richard said...

You know, I'm noticing that I'm now really aware of the word "actually". Dammit.