Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Today, my grandmother came to visit me. Not really. But I made her soup, and it was almost as though she was here.

I've been feeling a bit under the weather as of late -- not pregnancy-related, so don't worry. Just some sniffles that have now morphed into an elephant getting comfortable on my lungs, which cough frequently in ill-fated attempts to rid themselves of the heavy beast.

I think of my grandmother often: whenever I laugh; whenever I eat popcorn, pot roast, applesauce, frozen peaches, or anything with her Pennsylvania Dutch salad dressing; whenever I watch a beauty pageant on television; whenever I shop for or fold linens and towels; whenever I look through my cookbooks and find her ambidextrous, spidery hand-scrawled notes in the margins; whenever I hear a joke that makes me blush a little; whenever I catch myself humming.

Today, I wanted her to scratch my back with her crooked, arthritic fingers while I fell asleep in her big guest room bed. I wanted to open her linen closet and inhale the scent of clean sheets that equals comfort way back in my hippocampus, the primitive part of my brain. I wanted her to give me a stick of gum -- Wrigley's white. I wanted her to let me try on all of her peep-toe pumps, slingback heeled sandals and costume jewelry while she made her soup.

Her soup. I don't remember the first time I ate it. I don't remember not eating it. I remember sitting at the table in her kitchen, air redolent with the scent of simmering soup, looking for patterns in the strawberry wallpaper. I remember the same soup cooking in my house as I grew up. My mom served the soup with it's divinely-inspired counterpart: fresh homemade whole wheat bread.

Today, I needed the soup. I didn't have the energy to make bread, but the soup . . . oh, the soup. It was perfect. And delicious. And if I could have taken some to my sick sister, MommyJ, I would have.

Grandma Ayres' Hamburger Vegetable Soup

(I am not strict with these measurements. In fact, I kind of made them up. Because mostly, the soup is a list of ingredients and a big pot. So just go with it.)

1-2 lb. ground beef (lean)
3 medium carrots, diced
2 medium stalks of celery, diced
1 large potato, diced
2 medium onions, diced
1-28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. brown gravy sauce
1-2 bay leaves
1/8-1/4 tsp. basil
Water, to cover

Brown the ground beef, and drain off the fat. (MommyJ rinses hers.) Put it in the pot with everything else. Cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cook until it smells right. Eat it. Then eat it again the next day -- it will be better.

Make it when you don't feel good. It will make you feel better. Make it for other people when they don't feel good. It will make them feel better, too. Make too much, and then give it away. Make way too much and give some of it away, then freeze the rest. No matter how you make it, comfort is sure to follow.


  1. That sounds LOVELY. My grandfather was the best cook ever, and I dream about the food he used to make. It makes me miss him but it also makes me happy.

  2. I walked into doll shop yesterday (with my mother-in-law, I generally try to avoid such places. . .) and saw a whole shelf of Madame Alexander dolls. It was like walking into my Grandma's house. It made me homesick and happy all at the same time.

  3. This sounds so good!

    And this made me think of my grandmother who passed away about 10 years ago. She loved roller coasters and loved to take me to Knott's Berry Farm!

  4. I read this and is my mom all over, her vegetable soup, her home made bread that I've been enjoying lately and yes today when I get home from work on this gray drippy day I'll have some more of that wonderful soup that I've asked to fix probably every week since she's been here :)

    There's nothing like those family traditions that makes us feel better instantly, just thinking about it.

    Thanks for sharing the recipe too!


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  6. I never know what to do with brown gravy mix and I always think something could be done with it. Thanks for the recipe! I am definitely going to try it. I love soup.

  7. There is nothing like a good Grandma, and we both had great ones!!! Thanks for the post it made me think of mine!!!

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  9. I have no words for how much I love this post. It reminds me so much about how I feel about my own grandmother. Your imagery is wonderful. It takes me straight to my grandma's house, to have my back scratched, and try on her fancy shoes, and eat their soup that tastes like Home and Heaven rolled into one. And to feel loved and treasured the way every child should feel.

    On the remote chance that you might be interested, I actually posted about my magic grandma here, here and here:

  10. p.s. I've been mostly absent from the blogosphere lately, but the last few days have left me craving an InkMom fix.

  11. I made this today and it was extremely good. Did you ever try freezing it? The next time I make it I want to make a lot and freeze some and it seems like all the things in it would freeze okay. Thanks!

  12. Hey! I was just blog browsing and came across yours. What a great blog- you're a great writer. I think I'll try your Grandma Ayers' soup, but I'm just not sure what the gravy is. It's just the powdered mix you buy, right? And you put a tsp. of the powder into to pot? Thanks!
    My blog if you're bored:


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