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Nail Broth

(post, DawnHeather Simmons)

There is an old children’s story about a down-on-his-luck man who comes to a family’s kitchen door and asks if he can come in and borrow a pot and some water to make broth from the nail he carries in his pocket. (This story is also told with a stone taking the place of the nail.)  As he goes along, he mentions to the farm wife that if he only had a little of this or a little of that, “this could be a broth fit for a king!”  And, of course, she supplies this or that, and sure enough, the resulting concoction feeds the entire family as well as if they were all kings.  

Today is a chilly and rainy day, and everything about it says “soup!”  So I thought of all the kinds of soup I could make and like making, and for every one of them, I was missing a key ingredient.  The supplies in my larder are pathetically short right now of all the things I usually consider staples.  But to anyone else looking, it would appear that I have a lot of food in my kitchen.  So I thought about it for awhile, and then decided to make Nail Broth out of whatever ingredients I could find that seemed to work.  

I start with the leftovers from a roasted chicken.  I like roasted chicken when it’s first made, and hot.  I like it maybe once or twice cold, as sandwiches, later on.  But once that’s over, I really don’t get excited about chicken…  Throw it in the soup pot.  Whole.  I can fish the bones out later.  

Onion.  Soup always requires onion, doesn’t it?  At least I’ve always thought so.  I have one on the counter that’s starting to sprout and needs to be used, so I chop that up into a very rough chop and throw everything but the sprouting parts in to my soup pot.  

Scrounge through the freezer.  Aha!  Some lovage from a friend’s garden from last year.  That would work!  So I tear off several leaves and throw those in the soup pot.  

While re-scanning my kitchen counter, I notice a bruised apple (I dropped it when I was unloading groceries the other day and I know I’ll never eat it, although ¾ of it is perfectly okay) and a lemon that looks like it’s seen better days (I use them all the time, so buy them in quantity, and sometimes buy too many).  I squeeze the lemon and find it has a surprising amount of juice in it.  The apple gets diced and added to the soup along with the lemon juice.  

I wander back to the refrigerator, where I find the last bit of cauliflower from one I bought last week on sale.  That might work, so it gets chopped up and added to the pot with everything else.  A look in one of my cabinets reveals half a bag of barley.  I shake out a generous handful and put that in, as well.  

Now I add several grinds of fresh pepper and allspice, and a couple of bay leaves for good measure.  By this time, the water has come to a boil, and things are already starting to cook.  I turn down the heat and think of adding cabbage, but decide to wait until later, so it’ll still be somewhat crisp when I have my soup.  I’ll probably serve it with a splash of wine and a dollop of sour cream, once the cabbage is cooked.  

I taste the soup as it cooks, and it’s not half bad, so far.  The apple and lemon has added a little depth of flavour that’s interesting, and not unpleasant.  The cauliflower is definitely in there, but not overpowering.  The chicken is melting into little pieces. (The bones will be a pain to fish out, but I’ll worry about that later!)  My house smells wonderful.  I think this soup might even turn out to be fit for a king!