You can fit a lot of memories into a soup bowl.
As a little kid with a sore throat and stuffy nose, Mom filled my bowl with Lipton's Chicken Noodle Soup, the salty brew guaranteed to get the sinuses going. Plus there was the fun of pondering those little white bits and wondering if they were really chicken, or something an astronaut might wash down with Tang.
After a hard morning sledding our neighborhood's snowy hills, we'd get mugs of Campbell's tomato soup, reconstituted with either milk or water, depending on whose mom was serving it up. And always with an American-on-white grilled cheese sandwich.
At my grandmother's, soup was never the same twice, but was always good. It all depended on what there was in the big plastic bag of leftovers that lived in Oma's freezer.
When you come of age during the Depression and raise a child on your own as an American immigrant during World War II, you don't waste anything. Leave a few peas on your plate at dinner and you'd meet them sometime later in soup, served in dainty white porcelain bowls with wide pink rims.
Oddly enough, I didn't get into hearty, meal-in-a-bowl soups until I came to Florida in the '80s. Maybe it was the Cuban black bean soup and caldo gallego I first had in Ybor City that made me realize what I was missing. Ever since, I connect fall with soupmaking. If the weather doesn't seem quite chilly enough, then I just turn up the air conditioning a few notches.
One of my favorites is this Italian Sausage Black Bean Soup I found in a 1994 cookbook you can still find on eBay. The gimmick behind Light & Luscious was that each page has a recipe in its "light'' form and its "luscious'' (higher calorie) version.
I made the light version and found it so luscious, I've never bothered with the alternative. It's quick and easy, and people like it. Freezes well, too.
I've made it for church soup nights and friends who needed a comforting meal at a tough time. I once tripled the recipe and packed my parents' freezer with individual servings. I believe my mom called me every time they had some to say how much they enjoyed it.
Talk about a memory in a bowl of soup.
Charlotte can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8425.
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ITALIAN SAUSAGE BLACK BEAN SOUP
6 ounces Italian turkey sausage
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/3 cup chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 (10 1/2-ounce) cans low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, drained
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons no-salt-added tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 cup nonfat sour cream
Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
Crumble sausage in a Dutch oven; add onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until sausage is browned and vegetables are tender, stirring frequently. Add 2 cans black beans, chicken broth, and next 7 ingredients. Place remaining 1 can black beans in a bowl; mash with a fork, and add to soup mixture. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes or until thickened. Ladle soup in individual bowls. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon sour cream. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.
Makes 8 1-cup servings.
Nutritional information per serving: 223 calories, 29.9g carbohydrates, 14.5g protein, 5.7g fat (1.8 saturated), 19mg cholesterol, 553mg sodium.
Source: Light & Luscious (Oxmoor House, 1994)