Savory, Sacred Soup

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By Sister Karen Zielinski, OSF

The weather was getting cooler, and the colorful fall leaves were not going to last much longer. It was a sign for me to make some soup.

I decided on beef vegetable. I usually make Hubert Humphrey’s favorite recipe. While governor of Minnesota, Humphrey loved this soup. I found this recipe in a hospital auxiliary cookbook. It called for a pound and a half of stew meat, vegetables, and some other soup staples.

I bought “real” carrots-not the mini ones, but the much more flavorful long ones I would have to peel and cut. I diced my onions and celery, and even added some peeled, diced potatoes.

I ate the soup for two days, and froze several meal-sized containers for future meals. I had my “vegetable fix” for the last two days. I gave three servings away to some of my sisters.

Soup is pretty cool! Food historians tell us the history of soup “is probably as old as the history of cooking. The act of combining various ingredients in a large pot to create a nutritious, filling, easily digested, simple to make/serve food was inevitable. This made it the perfect choice for both sedentary and travelling cultures, rich and poor, healthy people and invalids.

Soup (and stews, pottages, porridges, gruels, etc.) evolved according to local ingredients and tastes. New England chowder, Spanish gazpacho, Russian borscht, Italian minestrone, French onion, Chinese won ton and Campbell’s tomato…are all variations on the same theme.” (I have to add Dill Pickle soup and Oxtail as my favorites!)

Soup recipes abound in cookbooks, and soup has been the subject of many folk stories, like Stone Soup and Nail Soup. These are stories which basically tell the tale of a stranger (a clever young man, a monk, or a tramp) who tricks an old woman into believing that soup can be made from a stone. As the pot of water boils with the stone in it, he urges her to add more and more ingredients until the soup is a feast “fit for a king.”

Soup nourishes us in many ways. There is the homemade chicken noodle that has been shown to have medicinal benefits, helping persons get over the common cold a little faster than without it; there are comfort soups like vegetable barley served on cold winter nights with thick slices of bread for dinner, and delicious French onion with gooey cheese on top which we might eat out at restaurants.

Soup provides comfort and is perfect for eating with others. We know of soup kitchens where we might help stir up a nourishing pot, and we know that we nourish–and are nourished by those who eat our savory soups.

Soup is a social, physical and spiritual experience. It is more than diced carrots, beans or cabbage. It is part of the “stuff” of everyday life. It is cooking, healing, fellowship and creativity. It can be gourmet quality, or canned and condensed. We can get soup from a parish soup kitchen, or a fast food restaurant. Soup combines and transforms the water and produce of Earth and makes a century old recipe new and delicious.

When we make or eat soup, we are one with our Earth, and with those we share it with. If you have never made soup, try it. And pray the timeless blessing:

“Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive, from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, Amen!

Soup’s on!

Sister Karen Zielinski

Health and Spirituality 

Sister Karen ZielinskiKaren J. Zielinski, OSF, is a Sylvania Franciscan who has lived with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) since 1975.  She writes, speaks and consults regularly on issues relating to spirituality and health. Her recent book, Hope and Help for Living with Illness (Franciscan Media) discusses chronic disease and coping strategies and is addressed to both caregivers and patients.  Karen also writes a blog on spirituality and wellness–Soul Sister– for the National MS Society website.

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