21 January 2010

With These Hands I Keep The Wolves At Bay

See that? That pretty yellow bowl o' goodness? That there, my friends, is a top notch Sanity Preservation Device. Yeah, yeah, I know it looks like a bowl of soup*, but it helped me maintain my mental well-being during a long, lonely weekend last. 

What's it called? you may ask. Go ahead, ask. (waiting) Well, I'm glad you asked! It is called Curried Potato & Carrot Soup. I made it all by myself, no cookbooks were harmed during the making of this meal. It was on Saturday after a fruitful day of photo taking outdoors, and I was getting hungry and tired and a little melancholy as the sun went down. I eat alone most of the time nowadays, and that leads to feral behavior and sloppy manners. Saturday night, I wasn't in the mood for that so I forced myself to be disciplined and act civilized. I reckoned a little cooking therapy might chase the wolves away, or at least distract them.

As it was, I had some leftover broth from a big batch of seafood chowder. It wasn't enough for a meal all by itself, but in combination with some chicken broth it had potential for a big pot of soup. The chowder broth was based on clam juice, water and half-and-half. Perfect for a winter night, I think. The next big idea was the potatoes. I had some big Yukon Gold 'taters in the pantry, so I cubed them up. Joining them was two carrots, cut about the same size as the potatoes. To start things off, I diced some onion small and sweated it in a pan with a little olive oil. Once they turned translucent, I sprinkled in about a teaspoon of my favorite curry blend and Oh, my! The saffron in the curry turned the oil a deep yellow with gold highlights. Man, that was beautiful!

Long story short, I sauteed the potatoes and carrots briefly with the onion-curry mix, poured in just enough water to cover, and simmered until the potatoes and carrots were almost done, about ten minutes. Then I stirred in the chowder broth, letting it heat up and blend in while I made a salad. It was such a lovely shade of yellow, I gazed at it for a while because I didn't want to disturb it.

But I was hungry. So ate it. All of it. Licked the bowl.** Verdict: It.was.excellent. The wolves fell behind a bit.

The pretty blonde you see above? That is Sanity Preservation Device #2. I woke up Sunday morning still in a bit of a funk. It was grey and raining outside. The euphoria from the curry potato and carrot soup had worn off overnight, and I was feeling wolf breath on my heels. As I lay there in the early morning light, I had it in mind that I should make some bread. I wasn't sure why, I just felt like I needed to do it. Reading a recently bought book on bread making must have been the inspiration, and I had just purchased some flour and yeast.

So even before I showered, I was in the kitchen, mixing the flour and water and salt and yeast. The first time I had made bread in nearly twenty years. As I stood there, no radio, no computer, nothing but me, the dough and my breathing...I felt lighter, calmer, steady. It felt good, like I was getting some breathing room. Over the course of the morning I let the dough rise three times, and finally popped in the oven to bake while I ate lunch. The smell alone was worth the effort. Mmm, mmm!

I had the discipline to let it cool down enough and set up, which was worth the wait. The first two slices were so good...later, I snacked on some drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper. To have with dinner, I slathered two slices with olive oil, salt, pepper and minced garlic, then broiled them to crisp. Face-on-the-table good, my friends!

So why am I blathering on about all my kitchen doings? Because making good things to eat, with my hands while listening to my intuition, pretty much saved me from a serious bout of cabin fever. The satisfaction of honest labor well spent allowed me put the wind to my heels and leave the wolves far behind.

Join me for a bowl and a slice, would you? What helps you keep the wolves at bay?

*Even though it looks a bit like chowder, it is really a bowl of soup. It has chowder in its pedigree, though.
**Not really. That's the feral behavior I mentioned. I did swab the bowl with some bread. Yum.


  1. Face on the table good - :-) You should watch Julie and Julia.

  2. picture perfect meal - I am duly impressed. I can imagine the crispy chewy goodness of your rustic farm loaf from here. My weekend had similar salvation - potato & pea soup with cornbread. I have never had the fortitude to attempt yeast bread. Don't know what's up with that. Sounds like the process was therapeutic and the results speak for themselves. Well done Gumbo!

  3. My bouts with cooking all turn out bad. Not so when I was younger, I think, but I was less picky then and had a cast iron stomach. Sadly, I have paid the price for that.

  4. What doesn't keep the wolves at bay at the Sushi Bar would be a better question! LOL This weekend it was my chili; for The Young One's birthday next week, although he's requesting a 3-course fondue meal, he'll probably get Pad Thai. For Beloved (whose birthday is also next week), I'm going to see if I can find some crawfish (alas, of the frozen variety) and do an etouffee.

    And I love baking bread, I truly do. Lately it's been sandwich breads and my own brown and serve dinner rolls, but you've made me want to bake a good, hearty artisan bread this weekend. So I will.

  5. I'm always trying to outrun them. Cooking is good, because your hands are busy, and you get to eat it in the end.
    Sometimes painting can keep them at bay, but they are always there, watching, moving, waiting.
    Dinner was excellent! Thank you!

  6. You know Gumbo, I could tell you how to cut the top off, dig out some of that bread for soup juice dipping, and fill that bowl up with some tasty soup, but I bet you already did that!

    Because first of all most Irish I grew up with always tore their bread apart and soaked as it was eaten, like I did last night. I could care less who saw me eating that way at the bar...okay I just threw that rant in there!

  7. Nothing better in the world than a bowl of homemade soup with a slice of fresh, buttered bread.

  8. Cooking is great therapy, isn't it? It's like creating the essence of home. And baking bread? Why that is the ultimate scent of home. Yummy. The other thing that helps is cleaning. Luckily they go hand in hand since I'm a messy cook. Nothing like says "new day" or "fresh start" like an immaculate kitchen (or house).

  9. I don't even like curry and that looks delicious! Cooking really is food for the soul, isn't it? That's what I always do when I'm stressed and it always evens me out!

  10. Oh I want that bread! Unfortunately, bread is something I can only have in small doses. I can almost smell it!

  11. your bread looks lovely.
    and that soup... nom.

  12. Sounds great. I enjoy cooking too--nothing better than fresh baked bread.

  13. Looks good! I am going to try to make the curry soup.

  14. Do you know about Jim Lahey's No-Knead bread?
    All you need is a cast iron dutch oven and about 18 hours. Hard to plan your life around bread but then again, why not?

  15. Woweee, Mr Gumbo, I am so impressed with your culinary skills! A man that bakes bread is worth his weight in gold! Kudos, cher!

  16. Regarding using the leftover broth from your seafood chowder, I LOVE to recycle food! Not just each leftovers but to make them into a new dish.

    The bread looks wonderful, I gave up trying to make my own bread 30 years ago. Maybe it's time to try again?


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

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