January 2015 Country Kitchen
January is Alabama’s coldest month, and cold weather calls for a big bowl of warm soup. Served as an appetizer or main course, vegetarian or meaty, dinner for two or a meal for those in need — soup is arguably the ultimate comfort food.
And soup isn’t just good for getting full and staying warm. Many soup recipes are inexpensive and can be simmered on the stove or cooked in a slow cooker after minimal preparation time — perfect for the month spent recovering from holiday spending and scheduling. Most soups are also good candidates for make-ahead freezer meals.
Paula Davis of Fort Payne cooks a lot of soup during cold months — every Sunday, she cooks for her entire family, and soups and stews are a popular choice.
“We live on Lookout Mountain, and it’s very windy and cold, so starting in the fall all the way through winter, I make soups and stews, particularly my beef stew (see “Homemade Beef Stew” recipe), which I’ve been making for more than 40 years now,” Paula said. “It’s just one of everyone’s favorite meals. On beef stew day, all of my grandchildren come in the door asking, ‘Maw Maw, is that your beef stew we smell?’ We always eat it out of the same big glass bowls, and it’s served with coleslaw, buttered crackers and slices of cheddar cheese. It’s a wonderful winter tradition.”
Paula and her husband Keith have two daughters and five grandchildren whose ages range from 14 years to 6 weeks.
“My grandchildren help me cook and always have,” Paula said. “Even when they were very small, they sat on the kitchen counter and helped me bake and cook. As they’ve grown older, that’s been a bond we’ve shared, and I so enjoy them being in the kitchen with me.”
And when the whole family gathers around the table, Paula and Keith make it a priority to listen to their grandchildren as they share about their lives, thoughts and dreams.
“We think it is very important to eat together and listen to the children,” Paula said. “Our granddaughter always sings the blessing, and our little grandson prays and prays for about five minutes. We make sure it’s never rushed.”