How many of you folks have a favorite warm sweater?
I know I have.
I do. I bought it many years ago from a little South American lady who sold them from her pitch at the local Halifax Busker Festival. It was late in the summer and the evening weather had turned cold but folks were still gathered around my own pitch asking for palm readings and I wanted to stay a little later so that I could pay my rent – so I bought this sweater to keep warm.
“Mamacita,” I said to her, holding up the sweater. “Por favor.”
Okay, so I learned all of my Spanish from old John Wayne movies – but she got the drift and I gave her my money and I worked until the light had fled and I still have that sweater today.
I like that sweater.
I’ve got other sweaters that I like but I am not going to show to you. I’ve got a ratty old fisherman’s knit sweater that is great for wearing over a shirt when it’s cold; and I’ve got a Mr. Roger’s cardigan that I wear around the house; and I’ve got a couple others that should have been thrown out years ago but I won’t do it on account of I know something about those sweaters that a picture would never tell you.
Those sweaters are MAGIC!
So is a good chowder.
Nothing says “sit down and tuck in” more than a well made chowder. A well made chowder tells you that you have found your way home – or at the very least to a place that smells like home.
Chowder keeps you warm. It adds a little much-needed winter insulation. Don’t talk to me about cholesterol and fatty build-up. Heck, most of your brain is made out of fatty build-up – or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.
(let’s file that last bit of nutritional information under “L” for Little-White-Lie, shall we?)
Let me tell you how to make chowder.
(had to stop and run down to stir the pot – I’ll tell you a little about that later)
First off, good chowder starts with a few scraps of bacon.
And an onion, of course. You can’t cook anything worth gnawing on without invoking an onion somewhere along the way.
(File that under “L”, as well. You can make chocolate pudding without onions, of course – but it won’t taste as good)
It doesn’t have to be fancy bacon. Just cheap and chewy bacon, something that will sizzle down and give you just enough “guilty” taste to make up for ALL of that veggie goodness that is going in next.
I like to chop my veggies first – so that I don’t have to fuss when I am cooking. I am allergic to fuss – most sensible people are.
It makes a few more bowls to clean afterwards – but heck, that’s what the good Lord created dishwashers for.
So I chop an onion. Then I slice some carrots thin. I slice a couple of zucchini – green zucchini today. I often prefer yellow zucchini on account of the appearance. It doesn’t taste any better – in my opinion – but appearance counts for an awful lot in a proper soup. You want something that slaps you in the eyes and says – in its best Tommy Lee Jones voice - “Hey – EAT ME! EAT ME!”
I would have used a yellow zucchini in this particular chowder – but the only ones that the grocery store had were so old and withered that they looked suspiciously like something that might have been lopped off of a 973 year old Venusian celibate monk.
I also add a bag of potatoes. I’m using baby potatoes today – because they make a GORGEOUS soup – but any kind of potato will do.
I usually put celery in as well – but I forgot to buy it.
Bad shopper. Bad, bad shopper.
No biscuit for you today.
I sometimes put garlic in – on account of garlic is good for you and tastes “guilty” even though it isn’t – but I forgot that today and it’s too late to go back and add it – so pretend that I told you garlic and never mind pointing over my shoulder mentioning that I forgot to add it.
So then I find me the biggest soup pot I own. I throw it on the stove – gently, on account of the stove top is made out of glass – and then I heat that sucker up. While it is heating I take the bacon and I chop it into the pot. Don’t be neat, don’t be delicate – just chop it up like you were making a handful of drunken confetti out of your last three grocery lists.
Throw the onions in next – and the potatoes – followed by the carrots. Stir like your arm was possessed by an over-zealous swizzle stick.
Then I add me some chicken broth and keep stirring. I add the zucchini and a tin of yellow corn – on account of I love the taste of corn in ANYTHING.
Even chocolate pudding.
After the chicken broth I add a helping of milk – until it looks mostly full. Then I stir it a little bit more and then pepper it like I was trying to scare out a devil.
Today I added a whole bagful of mixed veggies – on account of they were cheaper than buying fresh veggies – which are hard to come buy this far north at this time of the year.
Besides – you can NEVER have enough veggies. They’re good for you and they taste good.
There are many different kinds of chowders you could make with this basic recipe. Fry in some chicken chunks in the beginning and you’ve got chicken chowder. Open up some clams and you’ve got clam chowder. Throw in some fish and it is fish chowder. Ham or garlic sausage or even wieners are ALL fair game.
This is simple basic cooking.
Cooking is an improvisation and a compromise and an art with very few rules to follow. This is peasant-work and trailer trash thinking – rural ergonomics by any other name.
So I don’t have much more of a recipe to offer you. Take a look at your refrigerator or what ever is on sale at the grocery store and put it into a pot. Let it simmer for as you want. Because I added milk I am conscientious about stirring – on account of milk will burn and stick to the bottom – no matter how low the temperature is. But me having to run downstairs every half hour or so to stir isn’t any kind of real hardship.
This is what my pot looks like today.
Now – if you enjoyed that impromptu cooking lesson why don’t you leave me a comment – or else share this blog entry on your Facebook page or your Twitter feed – on account of I want to share this with as many people as possible.
You REALLY like it – well you can always run over to Kindle or Kobo and buy one of my e-books just to say thanks.
OR – you can just take that recipe and cook up your own chowder and tell everybody else how you read about the recipe on this crazy bearded writer’s blog.
OH – and why was I talking about sweaters?
Well, mostly because coming home to this chowder on a cold winter’s day always makes me feel about as happy as my favorite warm sweater.
So mix yourself up a big old pot full of Warm Sweater Soup.
yours in storytelling,
Today’s recipe was brought to you by my novella of redneck noir – HAMMURABI ROAD.