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Mrs. Sundberg's Recipe Collection - 12 tried-and-true--one for each month of the year--featuring an introduction and tips from Mrs. Sundberg herself

The importance of having a plan

March 5, 2007

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I'd looked forward to it all day, really, as we'd been hit with another snowstorm on Thursday and the snow came down until sometime Saturday afternoon. Now this was a humdinger, bigger than the last, and the kids and I were in the house until church on Sunday morning.

I remember reading, as a girl, stories about pioneers who weathered terrific storms and were snowbound for weeks on end and how they lost their minds and went after each other with axes and pitchforks, or lay themselves down and refused to eat a thing until they passed on, or simply wandered off into the storm, never to return. You've got to wonder what pushed them to those edges. Was it the silence? Boredom? Marital strife? Lack of sunlight, perhaps. Who knows. What I do know is that I climbed into bed Thursday night knowing what was ahead (I'd stocked up on food earlier in the day) and understanding the importance of having a plan. When you're home with kids (Mr. Sundberg is still in New Jersey) and somewhat confined for a stretch of days, you don't want to be without some kind of plan.

Friday morning, over orange rolls and oatmeal, as snow came down in clumps the size of small rabbits, I explained to the kids that they'd be spending the morning with me up in their bedrooms trying on clothes and sorting through books and toys. Seems things pile up and, in my mind, everything a person owns ought to have either a purpose or a story, and if it doesn't, off to the church sale it goes. My mother always says how a house is a likely representation of the mind of its owner. For her, order is a sign of health. So are swept floors, unsmudged windows, and clean bathrooms. I don't know if I'd go that far, but I can tell you she's been far more often right than wrong.

I remember Lizzie Hamilton's house, three doors down back when I was reading those pioneer stories. Lizzie lived alone with seven cats and kept everything. I mean EVERYthing. You couldn't get through her living room without climbing over a stack of newspapers or an old television or a box of yarn. Nope. When she died in her eighties of natural causes, it took them nearly two days to find her. She'd been putting shoe boxes away in the walk-in closet upstairs and must have set off a chain reaction because they found her under nearly 40 empty shoeboxes, four rhinestone pins on her blouse and a smile on her face.

For good measure, I keep a little chaos in the house, on a bookshelf here and in a desk drawer there. There is something to be said for balance. The kids' closets are pretty much out of my jurisdiction, and that's fine by me. They do pretty well. They did on Friday, working all morning filling 9 grocery bags full of clothes that don't fit, un-played-with toys, and books. Needless to say, I didn't see them for the rest of the day. They played outside and I made a couple loaves of fresh bread and a big pot of soup for dinner and listened to the wind in the chimes under the eaves. One of those afternoons when things were as they should be. Nowhere to go, but no desire, either. The snow just kept coming, and the kids were laughing, and I dozed off awhile there in the kitchen, at the table near the window, as the soup simmered and the clock struck five.

Water Buffalo Soup

Here's a fine soup for a snowy day in March. Try it with fresh bread or biscuits and a little plate of sliced cheddar cheese.

1 meaty soup bone from a water buffalo
(I use a beef soup bone, but tell my friends it's water buffalo.)
1/2 T butter
3 T barley
2 T chopped onion
1 T beef bouillon
1 T soy sauce
1 tsp Kitchen Bouquet
3 medium carrots, julienned, chunked or sliced
1 T parsley flakes
2-3 stalks celery
1 medium potato, cubed
4-5 fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/2 can water chestnuts, sliced

Pepper to taste

In a 5 quart pot, brown the soup bone on both sides in 1/2 T butter using high heat. Add 2 qts water to cover soup bone. Cover and simmer 2 hours or so, until meat is nearly falling off the bone. At 20 minutes into simmering, add the barley and onion.
At 30 minutes into simmering, add the bouillon, soy sauce, and the Kitchen Bouquet. At two hours of simmering, remove the soup bone, trim off fat and discard. Shred the meat and return to pot along with the bone. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer 20 minutes or so until vegetables reach desired doneness. Add more water and seasonings as needed. Optional: I often add a variety of other ingredients including any combination of the following: egg noodles, bok choy, leaf spinach, spaghetti, bamboo shoots, Oriental noodles.

This is the kids' favorite soup, but it never turns out the same way twice. Soup making should be a pleasant endeavor, so be creative. Enjoy!

Serves 6-8 as a side dish, 4-6 as a meal.

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