When I was four months old, our family friend and one of the towns best pediatricians, Dr. Herzog, asked Mother if she had fed me meat yet. As I was her first, we used each other as guinea pigs and she struggled to find the proper balance of foods that would satisfy my voracious appetite as the supply of breast milk was very unpredictable. Every Aunt, grandmother, and neighbor took it as a God-given right to offer this new mother a piece of mostly contradictory advice, leaving her buried under a mountain made up of old wives’ tales and most modern views that annulled each other.
She avoided honey, eggs, and strawberries to fend off potential allergies, mixed cow milk with water once her milk just refused to come out, placed a few seeds of carraway to lessen the stomach cramps, and mashed potatoes, pumpkin, and peas with a fork to feed it to my decidedly finicky and wide-open mouth. But meat? For a four month old whose gums were still void of even the smallest white protrusions seemed dangerous and too invasive. But Dr. Herzog had over thirty years of experience in assuaging fears of brand new mothers and his mild-mannered, but authoritative approach convinced her to try his recipe.
She made a vegetable and veal broth, simmered it until everything was very soft, strained it, smashed the veggies and discarded the meat strands which toughened in the poaching liquid. All the essence of the veal, he assured her, would remain in that broth. She fed it to me with a spoon, apprehensive, prepared to stop and take me to the emergency room at the first sign of trouble. But as I ruminated contentedly, she relaxed, which rarely happens to mothers with their firstborns.
When my oldest daughter was born, the economic sanctions imposed on Serbia were getting worse and worse and baby supplies were hit the hardest. No formula, no diapers, no baby creams, and definitely no jarred baby food. My sister brought anything she could think of every time she visited from Germany, and my little baby smelled sweetly of BÃ¼bchen and Nivea baby soaps and lotions, had a stash of disposable diapers when we ventured out for visits, and gulped down Enfamil with the addictive need of a seasoned drunkard as my milk supply was not even close to being adequate.
Mother and I pureed and mashed vegetables and fruits, and prepared flavorful meat broths as my baby-girl kept on getting bigger and stronger. When I moved back to Michigan, my ex-mother-in-law gave me a Mullinex hand blender, which was the best present I could have received. I made soups and stews, compotes and fruity desserts, and blended them all into colorful pulps that I froze in ice trays, labeled and color-coordinated, of course.
For two more babies this process was repeated, and anything the adults ate, they ate, too, fortunately too inexperienced and oblivious to frown upon mushy stuff in various shades of browns and greys. As they grew up, from time to time they inevitably developed a strong distaste for peas, or broccoli, or green beans, or eggplant, but my hand blender solved everything, rendering hearty vegetable soups into velvety smooth cream soups that I would garnish with spiderwebs or heart garlands of plain yogurt.
One of our food blogging friends, Shelley from Franish Nonspeaker is expecting a brand new baby Ruby in August, and my dear Ilke gathered a few of us to throw her a virtual baby-shower and give her ideas for simple, nutritious, easy to prepare and fast meals that would make her first months just a little bit less hectic (if that is at all possible).
I knew that I would make a soup that can fit all of those categories with hope that she will receive a hand blender at one of her real baby showers, which would miraculously convert it into several healthy servings of baby food.
Shelley, I wish you enjoy these last two months, even though they will be riddled with anticipation and impatience, aggravated by the summer heat and humidity, and probably filled with doubt that your body will ever return to its before-Ruby shape. Trust me, it all changes the moment you hold that wrinkled, most beautiful creature in your arms for the first time.
I cannot wait for sweet, tender summer corn to use for this hearty, flavorful, but healthy and easy to prepare soup.
- 1 strip of bacon, diced (you can use bacon fat, or skip it altogether and use 1 Tbsp butter, to make it vegetarian)
- ½ yellow onion, diced
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 1 medium carrot, diced
- 1/3 big red bell pepper, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1 tsp turmeric (it does not change the taste, but adds a bit of color to the soup)
- 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (home-made, but if store-bought preferably low sodium)
- 3 ears of corn (about 1 ½ cups), shucked (you can use frozen corn, or already leftover cooked corn)
- 1 big Yukon Gold potato (I used three baby Yukon Golds), diced
Heat a heavy 3-quart soup pot or Dutch oven on medium heat and add diced bacon. When there is about 1 tablespoon of rendered fat, add onions, celery, carrot, and red bell pepper, and sautee for 6-7 minutes until all the vegetables are soft and somewhat translucent. Add chopped garlic, salt, and pepper, and stir for another minute. Mix in flour until evenly distributed and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add milk and water and whisk to blend every bit off the bottom of the pot. Stir from time to time, as the soup might scorch as it thickens. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add corn and potatoes and continue simmering until the potatoes are done. Adjust the seasonings to taste and serve for lunch, or an easy and fast weekday meal with a loaf of crusty bread.
For a cream soup, just whir it with the hand blender or regular blender until itâ€™s completely smooth. If it is too thick, add some more liquid, milk or water, until desired consistency.
Freeze the leftovers in a plastic container or a Ziploc bag, labeled and dated. To serve, place still frozen soup into a pot, add ½ cup of water and heat it on medium-low heat, stirring often.
Here are the other bloggers who are coming to the shower. I hope you stop by and say â€œHiâ€ during this week
Ilke from Ilke’s Kitchen
Anna from Keep It Luce
Carrie from Bakeaholic Mama
Christina from Girl Gone Grits
Elaine from California Living
Esra from Irmik Hanim
Jennie from Pastry Chef Online
Jennifer from Scissors and Spatulas
Lisa from Lisa Is Cooking
Renee from Sweet Sugar Bean
Robin from A Chow Life
Sarah from Snippets of Thyme