Sunday, May 21, 2006

White TrashSoup Can Cooking

As it happens, I have impeccable white trash credentials, at least on one side of the family. I also, however, have some issues with the term "white trash," and I naturally don't want to offend any family members, so even though I'm very certain that none of my family reads this blog, I can't even tell you on which side my credentials lie.

Anyway, I had the best of intentions for cooking this weekend. A. was going on a retreat with a bunch of the other high schoolers from church, so I figured that I'd take L. with me to my parents' summer place, in Southwestern Pennsylvania, a mile across the Maryland border, in Somerset County. My parents, who are firmly ensconced in their seventies, have been having some health problems, and it is not certain that they will be making their way north at all this summer, but if it turns out that they're going to, I wanted to do a little bit of cleaning and make sure that the place was habitable so that neither they nor I would have to do it later. My parents claim that they won't just ignore their health problems and drive all the way from Florida to Pennsylvania, and they've promised me that if they decide to come north, they'll call me, and I'll fly down and drive them up over a weekend, but they have been known in the past to evince both stubbornness and a lack of judgment about these things. Last year, for example, they drove the entire 1,045 miles in a single day, leaving at something like 3 am and arriving at something like 9 pm.

Anyway, I figured that L. and I would drive up Friday evening, have some fun in the area on Saturday, and come back Sunday morning in time for V. and I to get to our 2:00 curtain for L'Italiana in Algeri (which, by the way, was fab) Sunday afternoon. And maybe, just maybe, I thought that it might be a good time to raid the grape arbor and make some dolmades. So maybe, just maybe, I researched some recipes and took a big bag of pine nuts up with me. That part of rural PA is not exactly a foodie's paradise, and while you can always find at least two brands of scrapple in the markets, pine nuts are not so common.

The best laid plans, well, you know how that goes. It's a good deal colder up there in the mountains where they are, and the lilacs, for example, which are gone here, are hitting their peak in my folks' front yard. The grapes, however, have set out not one leaf. I thought perhaps there was a problem, but there are plenty of other grape arbors in their neighborhood, and none of them have any leaves, either.

And then there was a small matter of a virus. I woke up Saturday morning feeling achey, and there were other symptoms that indicated that I wouldn't be getting a lot done that day. I did manage to make breakfast and then to hold myself together well enough to take L. to her favorite thrift store, where she scored a pair of jeans and three tops, and to purchase a cheap DVD player for my parents' den, but after we had lunch out and drove back to the house, I was pretty much done for. Fortunately, we still managed to have a pretty good time crashing on the couch and watching movies. I had brought Strictly Ballroom and Bringing Up Baby, neither of which L. had seen before and both of which she enjoyed. I think this was a good move on my part. I seem to have gotten L. early enough so that she hasn't developed unfortunate cinematic biases. A., by contrast, refuses on principle to watch any movie that's in black and white. Even The Philadelphia Story. No, really.

Eating was about the farthest thing from my mind, but L. was getting hungry, and it occurred to me that it might be a good idea for me to eat something relatively digestible: low in fat, high in carbohydrates and fiber. But I wasn't up to making a trip to the supermarket, so I had to scour the pantry. Fortunately, the first thing I found was a bag of lentils that I'd bought near the end of last summer. My mother doesn't like moving kitchen stuff, so she keeps a reasonable stock of equipment and spices in both places. Yes, I know, spices don't keep forever, but we were willing to make do. And what says "make do" more than using canned soup?

As you might guess, I wouldn't make this recipe if I had other options (like an onion, a carrot, and a hamhock), but it was surprisingly good. L. liked it a lot, and I found it digestible as well as tasty. And there aren't many recipes that are simpler. Mom had canned Cream of Chicken soup on hand, and that was fine. I think that perhaps Cream of Celery with a shot of Liquid Smoke would be an improvement, but I'm afraid that I'm not going to test that hypothesis. I have my doubts about either Cream of Cheddar or Cream of Asparagus, but I think that most soups of that sort would work. I have no idea how my mother came to have a pantry without Cream of Mushroom soup in it. The idea was so shocking that I figured that universe must have balanced it with something equally shocking somewhere else, but I could only think of one thing equally shocking, and when I got home, there wasn't any Cream of Mushroom soup in my pantry, so the universe must be balancing somewhere else. Perhaps Bakerina found a bread machine in her kitchen this morning.

Easy Lentil Soup

1 can Cream of Whatever soup
1.5 cans lentils
3 cans water
1 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. ground paprika
Ground pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste

Combine the first three ingredients in a saucepan. Stir. Bring to a boil. Add the cumin and paprika, and a healthy grinding of pepper. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for thirty-five to forty minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender. Adjust seasoning.


Blogger goblinbox said...

I have a variety of white trash canned recipes in my head. For emergencies. I can -- if I must -- whip up a batch of chili from a few cans of beans and tomatoes and things in minutes; always impresses the boys.

12:59 PM  
Anonymous lindy said...

What is it with the black and white movie thing? Friends of mine who teach high school kids and university undergrads at state schools (such as the one I went to) say that their students cannot seem to stand watching any movie, no matter how stupendously good, that's not in color.

I find this bizarre. I guess, by extension, that this must be the reason some people buy USA Today? I can't think of any other reason they would.

4:54 AM  
Blogger anapestic said...

To be fair, I mentioned the whole black and white movie thing to A., and she said that her dislike of black and white movies was probably due to her having been eleven at the time and that she no longer dismisses them out of hand. I haven't actually tested that statement, but at least there is reason for hope.

7:27 AM  

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