Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bone Soup

Bone soup.

As a child growing up on the family ranch back in the fifties, we never got electricity until nineteen fifty five, one of my favorite dishes, or in this case a bowl, was what I called “Bone soup”and it was usually cooked on the wood stove.

My whole family worked, either on the ranch or in the woods, or at my uncles sawmill. So, specially prepared dishes were rare, and the food was usually simple but delicious. I remember my mother would take some deer bones and chop them up and arrange them into a large cast iron kettle that she would use mostly to make soup. The deer neck worked best. She would then fill the kettle with water to cover the bones and then add a little salt and pepper. She would bring it to a boil, then let it simmer all day while she would work, in the garden or to clean the house.

When it got close to suppertime she would pour the stock into another kettle through a strainer to catch the bones and meat. She would then take the best morsels of meat, chop them up and toss them back into the soup stock. The dogs were always glad to get the less desirable scraps. Dogs were kinda’ like people back then, they helped with roundin’ up the cattle and sheep, and they did most of the huntin’ for us. Back then nobody heard of store bought dog food. The dogs ate what the family ate. That seemed to suit them just fine. Deer huntin’ season was in the fall, so the garden was usually ripe and ready for the pluckin‘. My mom would pull a few onions, pick some parsley, pick a few tomatoes. We called them a “tuh-may-ta” back then. The new people probably started calling them tomatoes because there‘s no way in heck ta' spell tamata the way it sounds, but we didn‘t have to add the “e-s” after the “o” to make it plural, we just called them tamata’s. All that changed when the new people from the city showed up. They called them “tomatoes” so we, bein’ accommodatin’ folks, started callin' them tomatoes.

When the new people moved up here they started making the Grocery Store put their tomatoes from back where they came from on the store shelves. We bein' currious folk had to buy and try them. They was the most awful tastin' things you ever wrapped your lips around. I guess they would be alright if you put them in sumthin' that already tasted good, but we always used tamata's to make things taste good. We kinda had to laugh behind our hands that they thought anybody would part with hard earned cash for these things off the shelf when they grow for free in the garden. Anyway we now know why they call them tomatoes, they aint good enough to be called "tamata's". They aint anything like the good sun-ripened tamata's that Gramma used to grow.

Mom’d use some garlic that was already picked and hangin’ by the kitchen stove. She would stick the tomatoes on a kitchen fork and dip them into the boiling soup stock for a few seconds, that makes them real easy to peal. Then she would chop the tomatoes into dice size cubes. She would put lots of tomatoes into the soup. So many tamata's that just a few more it would have to be called tamata soup, but she stopped just before that point so it could be something that was spelled right. She would chop up the onions and parsley, then add that to the stock. The soup sounds like somthin’ you’d put patata’s (puh-tay-ta) in, but you don’t, ‘cause bone soup is made without patata’s.

Speakin’ of “patata‘s”, the new people call them potatoes. Which kinda’ made sense to us ‘cause it’s spelled just like the way they spell tomatoes, with the “e-s” after the “o” and all. We knew they was both vegetables 'cause we grew them in the “Vegetable garden”. They pronounced vegetable with all the letters in it, like veg-uh-table. We pronounced it veg-tubble. After awhile we figgered they used all these new fangled words because the correct way to say them was too hard to spell. Kinda makes sense.

So after Mom’d put the tamata’s, onions and parsley in the soup she’d start to put the garlic in, but I liked her to add the garlic in whole pieces, ‘cause when you’re sippin’ on that soup it’s a real nice surprise to come across that nice hunk of tender, juicy garlic. It’s kinda’ like desert, but only it’s not, because desert is sweet. But it’s a real nice surprise if you like garlic. The new people was always goin’ on about how to use “was” and “were”. They didn’t know that we didn’t care, because “was” worked in both place’s. In fact it seemed kinda’ strange for us to say “ He were going to town”, but bein’ accomidatin’ folk we met them half way. And we used “were” as much as we could. We was real surprised to find that the new folk already knew how to pronounce onion, parsley and garlic, so it made sharin' recipes a lot easier.

But there ain’t no place for their word “whom”, and we just plain refuse to use it, ‘cause all our people laugh at us when we try, so “whom” is out, just forget it!

Bone soup’s just like people, you gotta’ have good stock to start with, then you let it simmer ‘til it gets real good, then you throw out the bad parts. Pretty soon you end up with some fine fixing’s.

Anyway, that’s Bone soup. It kinda takes me back just thinkin’ ‘bout it. Pretty soon I'm talkin' just like we used to. I sure do miss us. The hard part is catching the deer, but it’s a lot easier if you’ve got a good dog, that likes bone soup scraps.

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