Saturday, October 29, 2011


No sooner than a winter ambush in mid-autumn is forecast that my thoughts meander to my mom's chicken soup. A bowl-full is what I crave for most when the promise of polar conditions brings memories of a mother's warmth to the forefront.

I liken stirring up a batch to time traveling as the blend of scents and reminiscence takes me back to her Cuban kitchen. Visions play out vividly with my mom at the stove and six children -- smaller ones in the family room, teens scattered about -- inside, outside, on the phone, at the piano, on the drums -- whatever! I get tired just recalling what she must have gone through raising six unique personalities.

Warning: my reproduction of her chicken soup falls a couple of ladles short of authentic, thus, any pretenses of me cooking up a perfect pot are left outside my own kitchen entrance. Life doles out its regrets in the later years... I had never asked her for her recipe. Nonetheless, I learned from observing enough to make a mixture that doesn't hold a candle to hers, but guaranteed... comes deliciously close.
I remember secretly laughing when she expressed disdain for cooking and the kitchen, because to me, no one could turn out a "sopa de pollo" or any meal, for that matter, like my mom. It's a soup that, to this day, I reach for when a heart needs warmth and a soul needs comfort. No measuring cups here -- or even tablespoons or pinches. I was never good at math, so forget amounts of any kind. I just wing it, knowing that all's well that blends well. So here you have it! The Mercedes of all chicken soups...



6 cucufates (translation: my cousin, Lucia's, term of endearment for a brat pack of 6)
Autumn on ice
Reflections of a Cuban kitchen
Pot(s) full of water
Chicken pieces (boneless, skinless to make it healthier/everything on to make it tastier)
Potatoes, golden or red
Sweet Potatoes (I love sweet potatoes; my dad used to call me Sweet Potato)
Quimbobo (okra, prohibitively priced out of season, best when plucked from your own plants)
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder
Any other spice you want

Scrub the potatoes clean and half or quarter. Leave the skin on. Wash the okra and peel the plantains then half or quarter. Husk the corn and half. Rinse the chicken pieces clean. Toss all the ingredients into the pot(s) of water. Add the olive oil, sea salt and spices. Bring to a roaring boil and let it roar till the chicken is cooked, potatoes are soft, and the quimbobo (okra) has frayed. Once cooked, remove the chicken and let the pieces cool. With (washed) hands, remove the chicken from the bones, throw away the skin and toss the pieces back into the soup. Let the mixture sit. Serve hot enough to sip, but not enough to burn.

The Magic:
Temperamental as I was as a child under two digits old, the slightest disagreement would send me packing. The cliché kerchief tied to the end of a stick and filled with stones to mimic my belongings, a favorite doll, and a secret hiding place within my mom's eye-view and earshot, was all I needed in my life as an escapee. To me, it was more than a revolt; it was a statement... a declaration of independence touted prophetically by mom as "She was born with a suitcase in her hand." In the later years as an adult, just as in my childhood years, two things always lured me home: a serving of white rice topped with a fried egg and her amazing chicken soup poured into a blender (minus the corn) and puréed to a smooth, creamy potage:

UPDATE: Since this posting on Saturday, I traveled down memory lane with my family who took me back even deeper into our Cuban kitchen and our mom making the soup. The vivid details of their memories are now included in the "Thought(s)" below. It all came back to me and, I swear, I was there if only for a precious moment.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Summer's heavy rains washed out the colors of Autumn, but nonetheless, there is no shortage of beauty.
Family dogs are honored with headstones.
My true love. We've been together now for what seems like a lifetime. Good ol' Joe. Always there for me when I need him most. Never fails to jump-start my days and make life's difficulties just a little easier to swallow. Call me shallow, but I love that he's rich. While my husband sleeps... a walk in the morning... wind chills and wonder... tranquility... inspiration and contemplation... reality on hold... just me, my best friends, sweater weather and Joe. He may not be everyone's cuppa tea, but he's my cuppa Joe. I confess. My endless love is for my morning Joe. Smooth as can be. Light. Sweet. Warming.