Guest post by Arlo from Ottawa
My first blog post was actually a letter I wrote to Lydia in autumn 2007, to thank her for helping me get through a difficult period in my life (loss of father, early winter depression, unemployment) and giving me the motivation to reclaim my lost pantry.
Now that I’m a more regular guest blogger here on The Perfect Pantry, I’m starting to understand the essence and appeal of food blogging -- not just the posting of recipes, but also the chance to engage with others who share similar interests and build a community, albeit via internet. I feel good when I can share tidbits of my life and my culture, and thoroughly enjoy reading the comments and following the links to individual related blog sites.
While I do not aspire to replicate, nor can I afford, many of the meals and restaurant fare that dominate some ‘foodie’ blogs, I truly enjoy having the staples, spices, herbs and condiments that can make a meal any place, any time, and in a wide range of conditions, at home or on the road.
My native North American heritage -- Cree and Dakota -- comes from a long line of nomadic people. Only in the last century have we become more sedentary. Before that, we moved with the various migratory and seasonal patterns of our food sources -- animals, birds, fish, and plant life.
Along the way, we traded with others, for beans, corn, grains, herbs, seasonings and so on, plus other necessities for our personal, physical and spiritual survival and well-being. This original “E-bay” existed for thousands of years prior to the arrival of visitors from other parts of Mother Earth. Archaeological digs all through the Americas establish the presence of items such as Incan silver, whale tusk buttons/beads, rainforest wood carvings and more.
That said, no matter how mobile my ancestors were, how light they had to travel, they definitely had a container of some sort filled with their favorite pantry items: sea salt, dried berries, white willow bark, Labrador tea, rosehips, cat tail flour, white sage, smoked fish, chili peppers, hominy, venison, bison fat -– the list is endless!
I think it is universal, this need to preserve, store and have on hand all that makes a beautiful and tasty meal for our family and loved ones, and to share with others. I imagine my grandmothers and mothers sitting at a gathering, reciting a recipe and cooking techniques to their relatives and visitors. They would likely trade and barter secret or rare ingredients along with other stock, staples and sundries. Everyone would move on, satisfied, knowing their next meals on the trail would not be boring.
I imagine our common indigenous peoples all had cave-pantries and enjoyed playing show-and-tell from the beginning of time. What do you think?
Food blogging connects all of us -- no matter who we are, where we are living, and what we are preparing for supper. I feel blessed to be a part of this synergy.
Clean-the-fridge chicken soup
Tonight was Clean-the-Fridge Night. In keeping with our pantry philosophy, this CTF soup was prepared with on what I had on hand. Serves 6 easily.
- 2 frozen chicken quarters. Bring to boil and reduce to medium low for 90 minutes with 3 bay leaves, a tsp black peppercorns, and 2 quarts/litres water. Remove chicken and set aside. (You can also do this part ahead of time and refrigerate, or crock-pot it first thing in the morning. If using a crock-pot, transfer the stock to a regular stove-top pot after the chicken is cooked.)
- To the stock in the pot, add 2 more quarts/litres water and bring to boil. Add 1 tsp kosher or coarse salt.
- Add pasta odds and ends of similar size (I added short tube macaroni and mini-seashells). Let boil 5 minutes, stirring so the pasta doesn't stick to the bottom. Then turn down to medium heat.
- Meanwhile, chop whatever vegetables you may have nearing their end-date in your fridge drawer, freezer or on your shelf. Try to keep everything a similar size for even cooking. Here is what went into my soup tonight:
o Baby carrots (1/2 cup)
o Asparagus (1/2 cup)
o 6 cloves garlic
o Small onion, chopped
o 3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
o Frozen green peas (3/4 cup)
o Frozen yellow corn kernels (1/2 cup)
- Frozen ripe cherry tomatoes (approx 12) added last
- I also added:
o Leftover homemade mild salsa (chopped tomatoes, onions, green jalapeño peppers, seasonings), approximately 1/2 cup
o Tomato vegetable cocktail juice (1 cup)
- Remove all the flesh from the chicken quarters, chop and return to soup as vegetables are close to tender.
- For seasonings, I added:
o 2 tsp Cajun seasoning
o 1 Tbsp instant chicken soup mix (the yellow evil kind)
o Shake of dried oregano
o Red pepper flakes (adjust to your taste)
o 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- Add more water, if desired, and simmer until you get the consistency you prefer. Some families like soup, some like stew. Ours is in-between.
I served this with toasted nine-grain ciabatta buns with garlic/herb soy-margarine spread. Enjoy!
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