Monday, December 15, 2014

One Last Time. With Potato Soup.

It’s broad daylight now, but I’m afraid to go upstairs. OK. I take that back. “Afraid” may not be the right word. More like “terrified.” “Petrified.”

Because although it’s been days since I climbed those mahogany-stained steps and peered over the wrought-iron railing, I know what awaits.

Our home is diseased. Closets, dressers, desks, athletic bags and backpacks are spewing forth their contents. Papers -- printed and lined and blank -- lie piled, stacked, crumpled. All-but-empty Diet Coke bottles are cast about like forgotten bowling pins. Coffee-residued cups line the end table. The bedroom wastebasket – usually emptied every month or so –can’t contain the current collection of dried out markers, inkless pens, inexplicable index cards, and Clif bar wrappers.

It’s exam time. Julia’s last set of high school exams. Sigh.

This isn’t my first rodeo. I know my job. I grease the tracks. I stay out of the way. I’m ever-present. You want fruit? Strawberries, blueberries, kiwi and grapefruit are in the fridge. Not happy with the lunch at school? I’ll be in the neighborhood – why don’t I bring you a chicken salad bagel? Running low on gas? I’ll fill you up. You’re tired? Let me fluff the pillow.

This is my job. I know it well. I’ve done it for years. But this my last. This is Julia’s last set of high school exams. She’ll have plenty more exams, of course. She’ll rocket off to college and pull all-nighters and down espressos and bounce off walls, but she’ll do it without me.

What’s most important in that sentence, I guess, is she’ll do it without me. She’ll be just fine. She’ll be awesome.

And me? I can’t even imagine. Really? I won’t be tiptoeing around the house at this time next year? I won’t be indulging unexpected requests for soup and cookies and Jello? I won’t be making last minute runs to deliver lunch to school? I won’t be dropping everything to hear what amounts to a 15 second story about a friend’s college acceptance? Or a 15-minute story about the cat?

What am I going to do?

I guess I'll cook. And perhaps, venture upstairs. Which will be neat and orderly and clutter-free –welcoming my exhausted college student home, with clean sheets on the bed, and nary an empty Diet Coke bottle in sight.

Potato Soup
Our tradition has always been that, as Julia studies, I cook and bake and try to anticipate what she'll want next. I lucked out with this potato soup tonight.

4 slices of raw bacon, chopped
1 onion, sliced thinly
16-20 baby carrots, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4-6 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
2 bay leaves
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup cream
2 tablespoons butter
sour cream 

In a large, deep skillet, sauté bacon over medium heat. When very crispy, remove bacon browned bits, setting aside for later, and keeping bacon grease in pan. Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic to pan. Reduce heat to low, and sauté, slowly, until onions are translucent and slightly browned. Stir in potatoes and bay leaves. Pour in broth, raise heat to high, bringing to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 30-45 minutes, until potatoes are very soft. Remove bay leaves, and using a potato masher or immersion blender, smooth out the consistency (we like it a bit chunky). Stir in the cream and butter. Season well with salt and pepper. Serve hot, with bacon bits on top, and, if desired, a large dollop of sour cream.

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