A while back, before Mom died, I went for a visit and she served me the most delicious homemade chicken soup I had ever eaten. (And I come from a large family that included two Polish grandmothers, so that’s saying something!) I asked Mom how she made the soup, and she gave me the recipe and I wrote it down. Actually, it’s more precise to say she gave me some general instructions rather than an actual “recipe,” because in true “Grandma” fashion, the instructions are “you add some of this, a little of that, and as much of that other stuff as you need.” It’s not very precise, but somehow, it’s perfect. I came back from that trip with the secret of how to make the best chicken soup ever, and since then have always had the most tremendous success, making the most delicious chicken soup.

Well…perhaps not “always.” I’ve had a couple of slip-ups. One time the soup was exceptionally cloudy, so I did a little research to see what I might be doing wrong, and quickly discovered it’s important to cook the broth on a low to medium temperature, not high. High temps apparently will make it cloudy. The stock should never come to a boil! Sixty years old, and still learning how to cook!

So, anyway, that was easy enough to correct.

Another time, just recently, my carrots were absolutely tasteless! I had never before eaten carrots that did not taste like carrots, never mind carrots that didn’t taste like anything! All texture, no taste. It was so weird. I saved the soup by adding a few packets of Taco Bell hot sauce to the bowl to spice it up a little, but that was only a quick fix, certainly not an amendment to the original recipe.

After that, I began to wonder if the Soup Gods had turned against me. How could I have gone wrong with the carrots? Eventually I decided it wasn’t me, it was, in fact, the carrots, that maybe they simply weren’t fresh. Won’t be buying that brand of carrots anymore!

But then, just the other day, I made another soup, and if I say so myself…this time I have OUTDONE myself! What a delicious soup! As of today, there’s only one or two more bowls left to be savored, but I’m hoping to duplicate my success on the next try. And here’s what I think went RIGHT this time: yep, I think it was the carrots! Because this time, I used baby carrots! I don’t think I’ve ever used baby carrots in a soup before, and I’ll swear that’s what has made all the difference.

So, now it might be time to amend Mom’s recipe (or instructions…) just a little. I think I’ll add the word “baby” in front of “carrots.”

Just a couple more things I’ve learned about soup: in Mom’s recipe, for some reason, there was no celery. Of course celery is a pretty common ingredient in chicken soup, but for the longest time I kept it out of my soups, because that’s what Mom had instructed. But as I’m thinking about it now, she probably just didn’t have celery at the time when I said “Tell me how you made this soup.” Because since then, I’ve added celery, and it’s just fine.

And now, the final Family Soup Secret: Though not much of a cook, after sixty years I have discovered, mostly through trial and error, that almost ANY food can be improved with a spoonful of brown sugar. But I guess Mom knew that long before I did, because she included it in her instructions. So now, without fail, I always throw a spoonful (or two) of brown sugar into any soup I make, and I swear it makes the soup sweeter and more delicious!

And that is just about everything I know about soup…because, as I say, I’m not really that much of a cook.

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