As Proust artfully demonstrated with his precious Madeleines, food is very closely aligned with memory. Around the holidays, abundant, delicious food is connected with shared experiences and conversations, moments spent together and relived years later. This time of year brings all of us together around the table again, to spend forced time with our families-those we love and sometimes put up with because we share the same bloodline. But we all sit and eat and celebrate another year gone by and share in the hope for the coming year and all the joy it might bring.
I normally spend weeks planning my holiday menus and find limitless joy in shopping for all the ingredients, trying out new ideas and using my ever-patient family as guinea pigs. But the holidays lost a bit of sparkle with the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. As I boiled parsnips in chicken broth and thyme, my mind wandered to the families unable to stomach the idea of celebrating. As I wrapped presents for my children, I thought of the moms and dads who had wrapped presents that will remain unopened forever by their little ones. And I thought endlessly about how you heal. How do you recover from such tragedy and sadness? What brings you back from that type of heartbreak? And, as always, I wandered back to food, the great comfort in times when hearts are heavy and words are few.
When our holiday table, laden with love and leftover turkey, was finally vacated, I surveyed the damage and went to work on creating food that could comfort aching hearts and tired souls for months to come. The remaining stuffing became a savory bread pudding, topped with cranberry sauce and gravy. The mashed potatoes were transformed into homemade perogies and frozen. The roasted vegetables and some turkey were chopped up, the brussel sprouts grated, and all mixed together and fried into a delectable hash. And the crown jewel of all leftover meals sat boiling in a steaming tub of herbaceous goodness on the stove: tried-and-true turkey soup.
No foodstuff could ever fix all wrongs in this world, but it can put you all together, around a table, talking, healing, laughing, loving, remembering-and starting anew.
Mom's Tried-and-True Turkey Soup 1 turkey carcass, broken up, in large pot
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
2 chicken bullion cubes
6-8 cups of water-no more, just enough to barely cover turkey
small can of stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup of barley
Directions: Combine carcass, veggies, spices, and water, and cook on low all day. Once turkey is soft, strain it and reserve broth. Add in any leftover gravy to broth. Stir in stewed tomatoes. Once turkey cools, pick meat off bones, and add back to pot with broth. Add in barley and any additional veggies you want. Cook for 20 more minutes.