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It’s a crock

Posted: November 13, 2017 4:53 p.m.
Updated: November 14, 2017 1:00 a.m.

Paint me insane, but if I was stranded on a deserted island, I believe the one thing I would want -- besides a couple of beers, of course -- is a great big ol’ crock of soup boiling merrily away atop my signal fire. I can even smell the ingredients – fresh seafood, probably whatever creatures I could catch in the shallows, possibly flavored with a little hint of wild sage or lemongrass.

Okay, okay, life as a castaway alone on a desert island would undoubtedly suck. But I bet if I had the wherewithal to make a decent soup, it would certainly be a little more bearable. 

There’s just something incredibly comforting about soup -- not just that first bowl full -- but the whole experience. I love to make soup; I love to smell it when I first walk into the house; I love the steam that wafts toward you when you lift the lid of the pot -- especially when you have just come inside from the cold and wet. 

I’m even one of those weirdos who loves hot soup when its 95 degrees outside. Why not? It’s another good reason for the existence of air conditioning.

I’ve been this way about soup for as long as I can remember. I suppose my first memory is something as simple as being at home from school, sick, and watching cartoons while eating a bowl of chicken noodle soup and saltine crackers. Being sick was no fun, but the soup and crackers and cartoon thing made it a lot better.

Later, I would look forward to my grandmother’s homemade vegetable soup almost, if not more than, her chocolate cake. I still try to emulate her recipe -- a chicken stock and shredded cabbage based creation with great big ol’ tasty chunks of country ham that I am convinced can heal the sick and raise the dead. I’ve been known to wipe out an entire pot of that in a single afternoon.

My mother did great soups, too. Indeed, the invention of the crock pot may well have been the ultimate game changer around our house. Between my dad running back and forth to his timber farm, her many piano students coming for lessons every weekday afternoon, and me, mom’s crock pot kept us from starving to death or worse, becoming a casualty of the microwave-and-fast food nation.

One of the great traditions way back in the day was mom’s post-Cup chili. With an annual infestation of reveling college kids coming to the Carolina Cup every spring, she would cook up a couple of great big pots of chili and make sure everyone who came to the house afterward ate a cup or two before they went anywhere else.  

As I got older, I realized if I wanted homemade soup, I’d better learn to make it myself. And, without spraining my shoulder patting myself on the back, I have become pretty good at it. Alas, like everything else, such achievement takes years of practice. Many of my early attempts required severe inebriation to eat so much as one bite -- and a HAZMAT team to remove the rest. There was a time, my freshman year in college, that the dean of housing made one of his surprise inspections. I don’t remember the exact conditions of our room at the time, but I do know the Geneva Convention expressly prohibits housing POWs in similar conditions.

At some point, the dean found my crock pot, lifted the lid and sniffed. When he regained consciousness, he gasped out a single question: “Where’s the hell’s the ten-foot pole?”

“What ten foot pole, sir?”

“The ten-foot pole you had to use to stir that sh&^!”

The following summer, while living in the legendary bachelor pad known as “Dirty Fred’s Gigolo Trailer,” I developed a recipe known as “By Gawd Soup” -- the ingredients of which consisted of “anything and everything we’ve got, plus a bottle of ketchup, By Gawd.” Needless to say, results were hit or miss. One of the misses was so bad we eventually had to clean the crock pot at a nearby car wash.

 But as they say, practice makes perfect, or in my case, practice makes fair to middlin’. So, while I probably wouldn’t open a successful restaurant on my deserted island, I still ought to be able to whoop up a right wicked seafood chowder.

Just look for the smoke signals. And the ten foot pole.

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