Flavors from home and bad jokes

This is the season! To bear the cold, the grey, the wet… all you need is soup, and a certain sense of humor.

The first soup-making of the season was on December first, gathering visual artist Georgia Peaches, graphic designer Maria José Castillo and cartoonist and illustrator Camilo Aguirre.

(To find out more about this soup-making series, click here).

An alphabetical account of a soup-making night in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

AJIACO: We enjoyed a make-do-with-local-ingredient-version of this traditional soup from Bogota. Chicken is boiled in broth, cold washed, pulled and put back in the broth with potatoes, chives, onions, salt, guascas (foraged weeds) and garlic.

BROTH: Prepared in the slow cooker with the carcass of our Thanksgiving turkey, celery, carrots and onions.

COLOMBIA: Colombian food culture, geography and movies naturally came up a lot in conversation. Curiosity is a wonderful quality : use those long winter months to learn a bit more about the innumerable cultureS that constitute what too many people consider as a monocultural block (“South America”).

BTW: People, it’s pronounced Colombia with an “o” and not a “u” (please hit me if you ever hear me say it wrong again).

DESIGN: S.A.D. therapy lamps are visually unappealing. All agreed on that point.

FLAVORS FROM HOME: Flavors you grew up around, at home, at school or eating out as a kid. Comforting and healing, they are also a powerful way to connect with friends, neighbors and colleagues. By sharing them, you share a bit of your soul. If you live abroad and ingredients are hard to come by, try to recreate the experience with one key ingredient and make do for the rest (see MAKE DO below). In the case of the AJIACO soup, the key ingredient was guascas (foraged herbs).

JOKES: “What kind of animal needs oiling?” “Mice. Because they squeak”.

Good or bad, jokes are yet another great thing to share with friends and family during the long winter months. I live with a seven year old, so I get a good dose of questionable jokes every week. If you don’t have a walking joke machine at home, follow a joke account on social media, or download a joke app.

Don’t overdo it, one or two a day is plenty.

MAKE DO: When trying to reproduce flavors from home, you have to “make do” with what you find on the local food markets… or in your host’s fridge. Flexibility is key.

For this AJIACO soup, we made do with a North American variety of potatoes and we served the soup with yogurt (instead of heavy cream), haas avocados (instead of their larger cousins), lemon wedges (instead of lime) and sprinkled parsley (instead of cilantro). The one key ingredient, the guascas, brought it all together.

PRINCE GEORGE: One of the best cat names of the year.

SILLETEROS: While the potatoes cooked, we talked about Colombian films and documentaries.

Yet another idea for those long winter months : watch something outside of your cultural awareness zone. Open up your film repertoire!

In La sombra del caminante, by Ciro Guerra, two men meet in downtown Bogotá; one is missing a leg, the other is a “silletero,” a man who carries people around for money.

I had never heard of these human porters, originally used as a mean of transportation by colonial officials and explorers through routes impassible by horse carriage.

THERMAL REGULATION: People all around the world, in much warmer climates than Minnesota, love their soups!! Eating/drinking hot things in a hot climate makes you feel cooler.

“So, do you feel warmer if you eat cold things in a cold climate?” asked my seven year old. Unfortunately, not!!

WEEN:  an American alternative rock band formed in 1984 by childhood friends Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo, better known by their respective stage names, Gene and Dean Ween.

Highly recommended to counter the effect of S.A.D. https://ween.com


All this talk about flavors from home made me think of my mother’s life. How hard it must have been to leave all the flavors from North Africa behind and end up in grey, wet Ardèche in the 1960’s, eating unfamiliar stuff. There was no “international aisle” in stores back then. I remember how excited she was in the early 2000 when mainstream stores started carrying salt-pickled lemons and real moroccan spices. She bought an electric tajin with a recipe book and used it every single weekend for quite a while, sharing the flavors of her youth with us.

I personnaly really miss the harcha (couscous flat bread) my maternal grandma baked every time we visited her. The couscous they sell here is not the right texture and not the right variety of wheat, actually. But I have all winter to experiment and find a way to make it work!

What about you? What flavors do you miss? Try to reconnect with them this winter!

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