It's all Grandmother's fault
By MARY ZACHMEYER
It’s all Grandmother’s fault! If there’s homemade soup, it’s CLEAN OUT THE ICEBOX time. (Grandmother never used the word “refrigerator.”) Her soups sang of icebox leftovers, lots of canned vegetables from the cellar, and the perpetual barley. My youngest brother disliked barley, so he would sit there and pick out each tiny grain. Whatever was left from the week’s meals by Friday became soup. Each week, a different name embraced her soup.
Perhaps to Grandmother Bremer, barley soup was different from vegetable soup. In reality it wasn’t. All her soups had barley and vegetables. Every week, she gave us a squatted jar filled to its metal lid, overflowing with flavor and we would never, ever tell her they all tasted delicious, but all tasted the same.
Usually, I make chicken noodle soup with all the veggies I can find, except carrots. I’m allergic to the suckers. At the moment, horseradish soup simmers on my back burner. I’ve never made horseradish soup. I don’t even like horseradish and I don’t know why I’m making it. I’m also making pumpernickel bread which I love but have never tried to make before. I figure cubes of this dark delight will garnish the soup…so I can swallow it.
Yeast goes into the bread machine—even the smell reminds me of Grandmother. Her whole life appears the way Mother told it over and over. She got up early every morning and made a big pot of coffee in her grey metal coffee pot. Once she had a cup of it in her hand, she studied the Bible by candlelight and organized her day like books on a shelf.
Grandmother seldom used recipes, only measuring in her magical palm. Thursday night, she would don one of her hand-made aprons and grease a huge aluminum pan. Gnarled fingers reached down into the opened bin, grabbing handfuls of flour sprinkling it over the table in a baptism of manna. Her back arched, body swayed over the tin table, pressing life into the dough. It sat in the aluminum dishpan all night next to the radiator.
The next morning, she punched the dough down and began making cinnamon coffee cake. Her fingers painted the dough with melted butter. Sometimes the next day, Mother and I would discover she forgot the salt again. We’d giggle and smile and spread her infamous grape jam on slices so we wouldn’t notice its absence.
Now, my bread machine beeps its completion. The soup’s hot and I wonder what Grandmother would think of these odd-shaped machines that scrape and buzz? I bet she’d want to try it, but come next Thursday evening, she’d don her apron and make soup with barley and leftover vegetables and get the sweet dough to rising asap, in between thinking about Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Until next time, happy home-made soup and an apron salute to new-fangled bread machines.