Thursday, December 31, 2009

Soup for a Snowy Day

It has been a beautiful holiday season, light snow falling gracefully and leisurely, just as the ground threatens to turn brown again. Yesterday, seemed the perfect day to enjoy "a soup" as my mother calls it. My mother says, "I will make a soup" whereas I would say 'I will make some soup." I don't know what the difference is but it is a usage I find endearing. I think of her soups as entities, really, ready to be set out to provide nourishment and warmth. I guess I think of mine as just, well, an attempt at cooking. But that is why I am on this journey, to learn from the wisdom of those before me, who knew something I did not. That gathering fresh items for "a soup" is holy work. Our kitchens and our flat, wooden tables are holy ground.

Chicken Corn Soup is a familiar food item. I remember eating it at mom's table and in Shipshewana, Indiana. It is delicious! So, I set out to Prairie Harvest, purveyor of whole/bulk/local foods to find a nice chicken. Alas, no date of birth, but it was a supple young thing guaranteed to be organic and vegetarian fed. I like that in a bird. I brought it home and set it above the flame in a big pot. The aroma was soon wafting generously throughout the house.

This recipe calls for rivels to be added to the soup about 7 minutes before you serve it. A word of caution-don't make those rivels too big. I was dropping great globs of dough into the boiling substance when Derek, family friend who graced the kitchen with his presence during this leg of the journey, found a picture in the cookbook with a caption, that described "chicken corn soup thickened with tiny rivels." He read this aloud to me and I made the necessary adjustment. With rivels, as in most of life, more is less.

Chicken and Corn Soup
1 whole chicken
4 qts of cold water
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery and leaves
3 cups of corn
2 hard cooked eggs
salt and pepper
Cook chicken slowly until it is tender. Add salt after about 15 minutes. Mine was tender after about 45 minutes of slowly boiling.
Remove chicken from bones and strain broth through a fine sieve..
Take meat from bones and chop fine, add to broth.
Add the corn, chopped celery and onion.

To make rivels:
1 cup flour
1 egg
1/4 cup milk.
Rub this mixture together with 2 forks until well blended and drop into boiling soup.
cover and boil slowly for 7 minutes.

I wasn't at all sure about these rivels. It seemed risky to introduce a doughy substance into the mix, but even when I was making them too big, they were soon bobbing happily and surreptitously in the boiling broth. They do add thickening to the soup and make the eating even more enjoyable.

This recipe was adapted from the Chicken and Corn Soup recipe submitted by Mrs. B. L Bucher and Ruth Slaymaker to the the Mennonite Community Cookbook. (1950)
An appreciative nod to Derek Hamm for his encouragement and timely assistance.

With gratefulness to the many women who recognized the importance of hearth, home, and a healthy fragrant soup,


  1. Your post prompts two special memories. One, of my mother who often talked about the wonderful taste of a "young chicken" - in the last years when we would pick up groceries for her she would say "get me a young chicken."
    The other memory is the one that is still in the making - being in the kitchen with son Derek. What a privilage to share and learn from each other while cooking. Again this Christmas I learned more about food (updating my rural menu with some of the tastes of KC) and about life. Thanks for the journey back to young chickens and the reminder of present blessings.

  2. I'm reading through the archives. I also have my grandmother's mennonite cookbook. Our family is from Lancaster, PA. Her best foods were chicken corn soup with rivels and cracker pudding (our Christmas pudding). They are wonderful!