Wednesday, the kids and I took a last minute trip to "The Big City"........Missoula (pop. 57,053 in 2000). We spent 3 days and 2 nights in a HOTEL. With a pool. And a slide. And restaurants like Olive Garden and Fuddruckers and Cold Stone Creamery.......mmmmmm. My goal was to spend as little money as possible and still have a good time. So we ate cheap the whole time we were there then splurged the last night. Cracker Barrel. I had never been to this restaurant. But my kids had. And of course they let me know how deprived (or is that depraved?) I was because I had never eaten there. So we went to Cracker Barrel our last night in the Big City. I ordered chicken and dumplings. I haven't had chicken and dumplings for years. The taste took me back to my childhood. With one bite I was standing in my Texas grandmother's kitchen helping her stir chicken noodle soup; the house saturated with the intoxicating aroma of sauteing celery, onions, carrots, sage, thyme and of course, chicken. It was wonderful.
Our trip home was uneventful. And though I had lots to do, my first undertaking when home (even before unpacking the car) was to start a huge pot of chicken noodle soup in the big cast iron kettle that once belonged to my grandmother. I had barely walked in the door before I was at the stove lightly browning winter storage onions and carrots in butter with a splash of olive oil. I added two quarts of water and dehydrated celery. Then I included a bit of that gelatinous material left in the bottom of a roaster when baking a whole chicken (I'm not sure what this is called but it's a great soup starter. I collect this "stuff" in a small plastic container in the freezer when cleaning up the leavings of a chicken dinner so I always have some on hand) and the carcass of one whole (previously eaten) chicken. It was just minutes before the entire house smelled like home. Only after bringing the water to a quiet simmer did I get the children organized and the car unpacked. After a bit, I fished out the chicken bones, added the noodles and some salt and other seasonings. The weather was vacillating between snow and rain and it was kind of dreary; a perfect night for a warm house and home made soup.
I really miss my grandmothers. Both my Northern Nana and my Texas Grammy were wonderful cooks and each left me with a legacy of precious kitchen memories. I hope that some day certain smells or tastes will transport my own children back to their childhood where happiness in the form of good food was shared nightly around our supper table.