Nothing warms the heart and body like soup

ESCANABA – When the wind chill drops temps into the negative numbers, Yoopers must be prepared.

You must have something good to read and something good to cook.

When the car won’t start and the furnace won’t stop running, it’s time to put the kettle on. There is nothing nicer than opening the back door at home on a blustery winter day and smelling pie baking.

Gramma knew that to chase the chill out of the house on a grey day, cookies in the oven did the trick. Stews, soups and sauces simmering for hours put warm moisture in the air and steamed up the windows.

For a real burst of fun and flavor when it’s below zero, break out the home canned tomatoes and the frozen wild blue berries. You can almost feel the summer sunshine like on the day you preserved them.

Mom was right when she said “have some oatmeal or some homemade biscuits. You need something to stick to your ribs in the winter time!”

Our bodies burn more calories in the cold weather. Throw in snow shoveling, windshield scrapping and ice chopping and you will understand that a hardy winter diet is necessary.

A generation ago, most mothers could tell when their family needed some homemade chicken soup or some comforting bread pudding. My Mom would know just when to treat us to strawberry shortcake after a day on the ice or the snowshoe trail.

I do not ever recall her buying cans of broth for soup making like most recipes of today call for. Her soups were from scratch. Chicken or turkey legs slowly simmered in her favorite soup kettle. Beef soup bones or a ham bone cooked all day before becoming rice/tomato soup or boiled dinner.

Pea soup was always one of my favorites, even as a small child. The old family photo album has pictures of me smiling with pea soup smeared from ear to ear and the soup bowl on my head.

When I was a kid, Monday was laundry/wash day in most households, so a tasty pot of chili or other soup on the back of the stove was a common thing. A good homemade soup was thick and filling and it was considered the main course of our meal. Ground bologna sandwiches or egg salad sandwiches often went with a meal of soup.

The steamy, aromatic soup was served in a bowl, not a cup. If we were really lucky, small oyster crackers were available to toss in to it.

Take some family time this weekend and get ready for Super (Souper) Bowl Sunday. Go through old recipe books and pick out a few soup recipes to warm up your weekend. When rosy-red-cheeked faces surround your dinner table after skating or skiing, try some hot soup.

Here is one of my favorites:

MOM’S PEA SOUP

1 meaty ham bone;

Black pepper to taste;

Chopped onion;

Water;

Chopped celery;

1 can of peas;

Diced carrot;

1 bag dried peas;

1 bag dried split peas (rinsed and cleaned)

Cover ham bone with water in thick-bottomed soup kettle.

Cover and simmer on medium heat. Add celery, onion, carrot and dried peas. Stir occasionally, cook on low heat adding water if necessary. Add pepper.

Remove ham bone. Cool and dice up bite-size pieces of ham. Return ham to soup discard bone. Add canned peas water and all. Cook slowly until desired consistency.

Serve with hot Johnny cake.

Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong resident of Escanaba. Her folksy columns are published weekly in Lifestyles.