Can a picky eater overcome a lifelong aversion to "branching out"?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Adventures in Soup

When I decided to start a blog about my attempts to break out of my food rut I spent weeks going back and forth about what my first entry would be about.  Then I caught a seriously intense cold.  Seriously.  13 hrs of sleep and I still feel like death.  However, it solved the problem of what to write about!  Even a picky eater like me respects tradition and what can be more traditional when you are sick that eating chicken noodle soup?

Soup.  Soup soup soup.  So at some point in my life, around 6 I believe, I decided that I don't like soup.  And I stuck with that belief unquestioningly for the last 22 years or so.  When ever soup came into my life, I would simply toss off the phrase "I don't like soup" and move on. I never even questioned it until recently.  I was a person who didn't like soup.  When I made the decision to start stretching my food boundaries, this is the type of thing I looked for in my life.  Those places where I stated opinions with unflinching belief, but was completely unable to provide any sort of supporting data for it.  I don't like soup.  Really?  Why?  What is it about soup that I dislike?  Did I have a bad experience with soup once?  Did a soup once kidnap my dog?  No?  No answer for any of these?  Hmm.  Then I guess it is just about time to re-evaluate my beliefs about soup!

So, not only am I a picky eater, but I also tend to be a very rigid cook.  My husband likes to call it "OCD cooking".  If the recipe says, cook for 15 minutes and flip halfway through, I am setting the alarm for 7 minutes and thirty seconds so I know it is flipped halfway through.  If the recipe says to cut something into 1 in pieces, you can bet that I am searching for a ruler!  Soup doesn't really work like that.  Soup is laid back.  It goes with the flow.  It is a dish based off of leftovers.  OCD cooking and soup do not quite mix.  Once I was able to accept that and let it go, I was able to really enjoy myself!  It helped to be deathly ill.  OCD cooking takes a lot of mental energy and I was lucky just to remain standing long enough to get everything on the stove!  Also, we currently have a lull in our funds and poverty is a great initiator of innovation!  Plus!  For extra added fun!  We just moved and a lot of kitchen things are still in boxes!  So all in all, events were conspiring to make it the optimal moment for me to relax, let go, and make some tasty soup.

So the first thing I did was google cold-fighting foods.  I wanted to make sure I had as much cold fighting firepower as I could get in there!  And then I went on the hunt for an appropriate base recipe.  I found it here!  Soothing chicken soup with all the yummy traditional ingredients and a cold-fighting boost of spicy deliciousness added on top.

I started out by roasting the chicken.  I used 4 chicken breasts, because I had 4 in the fridge that were likely to go bad soon. I patted then dry with paper towels and then coated them with olive oil and seasoned them with salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary.  I put them on a rack over the top of a baking sheet.  The oven I set on Broil and I put the chicken on the lower middle rack, about 8 inches from the broiler.  They cooked for about 20 minutes.  Once the first side had started to turn that perfect golden brown color, I flipped them to finish on the other side.  Then I pulled them and set them in a bowl to cool.  I poured the drippings from the pan into another bowl to add later to the broth.

Then it was veggie chopping time!  I poured some olive oil into the pot and put in on the stove to warm while I grabbed my knife and destroyed some veggies!!  I chopped up two smallish white onions, half of a red onion, some carrots (about 2 cups) and some celery (about 1 cup).  I tossed those in the pot to soften and chopped up 3 smallish russet potatoes and set them aside.  I minced 4 garlic cloves and set those aside as well.  While the carrots, celery and onions were cooking, I shredded the chicken breasts.  I like somewhat larger chunks of chicken, so I made the chunks about this size:

Once the other veggies had about 3-5 minutes to soften I added in the potatoes and garlic along with some rosemary and thyme and let them cook for another 5 minutes.

Then I added about 7 cups of chicken broth and a bay leaf and turned it up high to boil and then dropped it down to let it simmer.

I set the alarm for 30 minutes.  When it went off, I went in and checked on it.  The vegetables were softened and the potatoes were starting to fall apart.  I added in the chicken and noodles and let it cook for another 4 minutes or so.

While that was cooking I mixed up the "mojo" spicy sauce.   Even while mixing it up I got excited because for the first time in days I could actually smell something!!  And amazingly enough for me, it was the first time that I used a measuring utensil during the entire process!  I made sure to measure out the cayenne pepper just to make sure I didn't accidentally make the entire soup inedible!

 Finally the soup with finished.  Because my sense of smell and, thus, taste were definitely compromised, I sent my husband in at that point to add the salt and pepper.  I wasn't entirely certain what to do with the mojo spice.  I wasn't sure if it was to be added to each individual serving or to just dump it in the whole pot.  I went ahead and dumped it in the pot and stirred it up!  It looked beautiful.

So then came the true test. Eating it!!  I really enjoyed it but there were a few issues for me.  I overcooked the potatoes a bit, but the carrots were perfect to my taste!  I hate mushy foods and the carrots were right at the point where they were soft, but still held shape and the hint of crunch to them.  I really liked the taste.  It was just this side of bland, but I have the feeling that has more to do with my ability to taste and smell right now that with the actual soup.  I really liked it and I really liked the relaxation of making it.  Because I feel like soup is a pretty forgiving food, I felt like I had more freedom to do what I wanted.  My husband came it at one point and asked where the cup measure was and I told him I didn't know. He was absolutely shocked that I was cooking, but wasn't surrounded by measuring utensils, focusing on getting every measurement right.  It is amazing how much more enjoyable cooking is when you are focused on the experience rather than on getting every. little. thing. correct.  And I know for a fact that I won't be able to say "I don't like soup" anymore.

1 comment:

  1. I love chicken soup and it is one of the few things that I enjoy cooking from scratch. Thanks for sharing your experience of cooking this yummy recipe.