Growing up, I was smack dab in the middle of a whole bunch of boys. And as it was customary wayyyy back then, girls were expected to learn crap like cooking, baking, ironing, etc. Looking back on it, it wasn’t bad training for life. Except for one thing.
So, I was the seventh of ten kids and mostly during my childhood, it was mostly three older brothers and two younger. The siblings on either end were girls, but one eleven years older and the other eleven years younger. So, it was me and five boys.
So cooking in our house was usually for eight, give or take. When you learn to cook for such a large group, it is all about quantity. But you can imagine what it takes to pull together food for such a group… it was mostly casseroles, soups and lots and lots of mac and cheese. Now all these years later, I still am having difficulty in keeping the quantity in check.
One of the mainstays of my families was our traditional navy bean soup. Whenever we had ham, it was a whole ham/bone in and after the hungry pack of wolves known as my brothers got through with it, there was never much left. But that bone… it would become the chief ingredient of the soup.
So, into a pot filled with water that bone was go. It would simmer for at least a whole day, sometimes more. At the same time, the navy beans were dumped into a pot and left alone to soak. Finally, the beans were added to the soup stock and the bone removed (any meat left was long boiled off); potatoes peeled, cut up and added.
Then the whole thing was left again to simmer on the back of the stove. The great thing about navy bean soup is that beans and potatoes could constantly be added to stretch the stock. And as everything continued to cook, the soup became thicker as a result of the break down of the potatoes. The longer it cooked, the better it tasted. Even thawing the soup after freezing made it taste just a little more. And it could be stretched and stretched… it would feed the brood that I grew up with.
So, in our little family, having a whole ham is pretty unthinkable… we would have way more ham than we could ever eat. Even a half-ham is a bit much, but there are some traditions that you just don’t mess with. After boiling the ham bone, I had enough stock to split it in half and make two pots. The same steps were followed and we ended up with lots of soup.
The great thing is, The Kid loves this stuff. He hasn’t always had the same fondness for some of the inventive food that I grew up eating. But this is one indulgence that I happily make for him. And because of bad habits… I made enough soup for a small army!
The only downside is the human result of eating beans day after day. 🙂