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MARTHA MUZYCHKA: Soup — good for the soul, and plenty of other things, too

Creamy Mushroom Soup — the key to developing maximum flavour is browning the mushrooms and the onion.
Creamy Mushroom Soup - Cynthia Stone photo

They didn’t look like much when they were pulled out of the freezer the other night.

Two big plastic tubs; they held peanut butter when they first came in the house. For the last while, they’ve been waiting in the frigid wings, holding glorious, warming, liquid gold ready to transport all manner of tasty things from bowl to spoon to mouth.

The cool kids call it “bone broth” these days, but that just makes me smile and makes friends of mine laugh out loud. Folks, call it bone broth all you want, but it’ll always be stock to me.

And stock means soup.

The frozen tubs held lamb stock, which was not yet soup, to be precise. We made it weeks ago, after a feast of lamb that left us with the best leftovers of all: bones and meat that we turned into a beautiful, tasty stock.

This week, we turned that stock into another wonderful meal: Scotch broth. The stock simmered gently as my husband chopped carrots, celery and turnip and I got ready to add a healthy portion of barley.

I like to eat soup year round, but I have to say, nothing beats a bowl of piping hot soup at this time of year. (Well, comfy mittens come close.)

November could be a heart-breaking month, but I choose to look for warmth. When the ground freezes up, when snow and ice seem to welcome us in the mornings, and when the wind feels like it has tiny razors in it, we need all the help we can get.

We need soup.

Even though it’s much labour-intensive than cracking open a can of Campbell’s, I’m a big advocate for making your own soup, too.

Here’s why.

First, good soup fills the stomach, and fills the heart. It’s soulful. It stirs and replenishes. The taste buds are satisfied, and soon enough, the whole body feels the effect of good, warm food.

Second, it’s nutritious. Liquid protein on every spoon, not to mention the benefits of freshly chopped vegetables. Need to get some vegetables in your kids’ bellies? Put soup in front of them. Their taste buds will grow accustomed to it, and they will crave it.

Third, it’s quite economical. Having a freezer is not a cheap investment, but it makes the circle of planning and buying food make more sense. Our freezer has hosted chicken stock (I keep small containers, too, as flavour enhancers for all kinds of dishes), beef stock, ham stock and yes, lamb stock.

We’re not just carnivores: vegetable stocks are easy to make, and a great way to get the most out of your veg. Consider soup the great dollar stretcher.

Finally, soup is for sharing. We tend to make soup in large batches — more than enough for one family meal. Even after putting away singleton containers for future lunches (the freezer to the rescue, again), we bring soup to our parents, or have friends over for a great meal.

M.F.K. Fisher, one of the greatest food writers of them all, put it so well. “It is impossible,” she said, “to think of any good meal, no matter how plain or elegant, without soup or bread in it.”

In the cold weather, in the weeks from here through to Easter (oh, who we are kidding — through to the Victoria Day weekend), soup brings my family together, takes the chill out of the air, fills the house with the most delicious aromas, and is simply the best thing to have on your plate from October to May.

So let me end with a plea: if you can, please add a donation to your grocery buy each week for the food bank. The grocery stores often have specials on beans, grains, rice, pasta and other soup essentials. And if soup is not your thing, there are often meal kits available put together by the grocery staff. Or check out this list for ideas from the Community Food Sharing Association. As we head into the holiday season, maybe even add some special treats. Helping others warms your heart as it fills theirs.

Martha Muzychka is a writer and commentator, who dishes up opinions and soup, often in equal portions. Email: socialnotes@gmail.com

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