The first day in the kitchen of Jim's small cabin on his Dad's land, Jean decided to make a special soup for him. Her mother had given her the recipe and stocked the necessary ingredients to make it. She also added her own fragrant, home made bread to the pantry.
Jean brushed back her light brown hair when it fell over her face as she leaned down to read the recipe laid out on the scrubbed wooden work table. Her mother had wonderful penmanship and the directions were easy to read:
Place 1 whole chicken, including neck and giblets in a large pot, cover with water. Well she wasn't sure what giblets were but she just put the whole chicken and everything that came with it in the largest pot she could find. The next two ingredients confused her because they required 3-4 ribs of celery and 3-4 carrots. She though, “Why can't they make up their mind?” She decided they must mean 3 and ½ of each, because that was between 3 and 4. So she cut the 4th rib of celery and 4th carrot in half.
The two bay leaves and two onions were easy. She found them in the pantry and plopped them in, as they were. One teaspoon of salt and one-half teaspoon of pepper were also easy. Her mother had laid out the measuring spoons and explained them to her. Continuing to follow the directions, Jean put all these items into the pot with the chicken, turned up the gas flame under it and waited for the water to boil. She pulled a wooden, spool backed chair up to the stove and waited. She was afraid to go away because it might boil when she wasn't there.
After what seemed like hours but was only about 20 minutes she saw the water bubbling as her mother had described. She turned down the flame to let the water calm itself and just simmer. It was supposed to do that for three hours so she could finally get up and do other things, such as unpacking the clothes she had brought. The little cabin had no closets, but Jim had bought a pine chiffrobe for her from Sears that had a long mirror covering the door to her hanging clothes. The other side had drawers for clothes she could fold up. She was quite proud of it and polished it with the lemon scented oil her mother had given her.
Three hours later Jean went back to the pot, carefully removed the chicken and other pieces that floated out of the chicken. She put them on a large platter until cool enough to touch. She cut them into pieces to drop back into the pot with the vegetables and the water, now turned into rich chicken stock. She let the whole thing simmer softly until Jim was home from the fields, had washed up, given her a very satisfactory kiss and sat down to eat.
Jim said a quick “Thank You, Lord, for my beautiful wife and this wonderful bread and soup.”
He scooped up a big spoonful of the fragrant soup and chicken. He held it in his mouth before swallowing. His eyes got big and he gulped as he swallowed it down.
“Well, what do you think?” Jean asked, “Do you like it?”
Jim coughed and said, “It's absolutely fabulous. I've never eaten a soup like this before in my life.”
Jean went on to become a really great cook. But she and Jim laughed many times over that soup. He waited a while before he told her that he had never eaten a soup with all the chicken's innards in it, including liver and heart. But since they were all thoroughly cooked, he knew they wouldn't hurt him. He also had never eaten soup before with three and a half whole ribs of celery and three and half whole carrots. They usually were cut up into pieces. But as he told her, it wasn't her fault since the recipe didn't say cut them up. Also, it was a little unusual to have a whole onion, including the dry outside, in his soup, but again cooking it for so long made even the skin soft enough to digest.
[If you want to try this recipe, I'm sure you know the correct way to use the ingredients. You could also add some elbow macaroni to the final simmer. When it's cooked, ladle the soup into bowls. And then top each bowl with a generous serving of Parmesan cheese. Oh, be sure to note that the cheese should be grated not dumped in whole.]
Our family still prepares and shares Jean's Famous Soup, with a few necessary corrections. Bon Appetit!