1

Creamy Potato & Ham Soup

It’s been almost a year since I moved away from the East Coast to Toronto – a year that has been by far my most difficult, stressful and terrifying, but at the same time incredibly satisfying.

I’ve had a hard time remembering what my life was like before the move – from the layout of my third-floor Fredericton apartment to the events of the days leading up to the moment where I packed my life in a silver Honda Civic and left everything I knew behind.

I think part of me had blocked it out, to protect myself from getting homesick or feeling out of place in my new home. But lately, as the one year anniversary of my move approaches, snippets of my old life keep creeping in.

It happens unexpectedly, when I’m least prepared. Today it was the smell of an old sweater I hadn’t worn or washed since I moved, still carrying the floral scent of the dryer sheets I used to use.

Yesterday it was the aromatic chance encounter of fresh-squeezed orange juice and fresh-made French bread – a heavenly pairing that will always make me think of the farmers’ market down the street from my old apartment.

Once it was a whiff of incense and the distinctive twist of a muscle that, when I closed my eyes, made me swear I was back in my old yoga studio on Fredericton’s sleepy Queen Street.

As I let these memories trickle their way into my consciousness, other things are edging their way back. I can finally remember the drive my mom and I made to move me to Ontario last March, which up until now was just a blur of random gas stations and candy wrappers. I can remember my first week at my new job – the heavy feeling in my stomach of both excitement and fear. And just this afternoon, I was able to fully recollect that moment after the taxi came to collect my mom, leaving me to walk back alone to the strange apartment that was to be my home.

It worried me when these memories first started coming back. I was afraid that it meant I was getting homesick or unhappy. But ultimately, I think somehow I’ve finally come to realize that my memories are not a series of unconnected dots to be filed away by year and forgotten, but rather a timeline of who I am and how I came to be here. These memories are something I should appreciate, because I owe them who I am today.

I decided to make a good, traditional East Coast potato soup after spotting a bag of PEI potatoes at the grocery store last week. I took them home, quickly released them from the familiar Cavendish logo bag, and took a good whiff. You might think all dirt smells the same, but I swear the minute those spuds hit my nose, I was home.

Creamy Potato & Ham Soup
Serves 6.

Tools

Large stockpot
Cutting board
Chef’s knife
Wooden spoon
Measuring cups and spoons
Slotted spoon
Blender
Small bowl

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 lb cooked ham, chopped
5 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
6 Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup table cream (18%), divided
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese for garnish, as desired
Chopped green onions for garnish, as desired

Instructions


1. In a large stockpot, heat oil on medium. Add garlic and onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until softened and onion turns translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.

2. Add ham and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, until any liquid released from ham is absorbed. Stir in 5 cups broth, cover and bring to a simmer. Add potatoes, cover and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.

3. With a slotted spoon, remove 2 cups potatoes and transfer to a blender. Add 1/2 cup cream to blender and blend until smooth; mixture should be very thick and creamy. Scoop mixture into a small bowl and set aside. With slotted spoon, remove remaining potatoes from pot and transfer to blender. (TIP: If you want a chunkier soup, leave a cup or two of cubed potatoes in pot.) Add remaining 1/2 cup cream and blend until smooth.

4. Reduce heat to low, return all blended potatoes to pot and stir well to combine. Add remaining 1/2 cup broth and milk to reach desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper and cook (do not simmer or boil) until heated through. Top each serving with cheese and green onions, as desired.

Enjoy!

Advertisements
0

New Brunswick Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

They say time goes by a little more slowly on the East Coast. The people are calmer, the traffic less hectic, and nobody ever really seems to be in a rush to get anywhere.

The stores aren’t open 24 hours a day, seven days a week – in fact, you’ll be lucky to buy a loaf of bread if it’s past 5 pm on a Sunday. It’s what some people might find inconvenient or old-fashioned, but real Maritimers know that there are far more important things to be doing on a Sunday night than scurrying around supermarkets or shopping for handbags. Things like piling wood into your basement for the coming winter, fixing a pot of tea for your family or taking a drive to see your grandparents.

I always used to think that made the Maritimes boring. The fast-paced cities – the ones that rarely seemed to sleep – were exciting to me, a girl from a town so small it seemed to be in permanent doze mode.

But I’m starting to re-evaluate my scathing regard of Maritime life. I’m learning to appreciate that maybe 110 per cent isn’t the be-all-end-all, that maybe firing on just one cylinder isn’t all that bad.

This occurred to me recently while sitting on a two-hour flight back to Toronto, after a solid two-and-half weeks home on the East Coast.

Being home took some adjusting. The very first night back in my old bed, I couldn’t get to sleep. I tried stacking all the pillows under my head, I alternated between laying on my side, my stomach and my back, and I even tried counting backwards from 50.

Around 2 am, it finally hit me: the room was completely, utterly, disturbingly silent. There were no sirens, no traffic, no central air blowing through the vents. There was just my breathing and the occasional crackle from a stick of wood in the stove downstairs.

Total silence. After months of constant white noise, my body couldn’t handle it anymore.

The next day, I woke up to the sound of the kettle whistling downstairs – my dad preparing his morning tea. A very Maritime thing, tea is. City people would much rather guzzle their caffeine in more concentrated and therefore time-efficient forms, from paper cups labeled with Starbucks.

The remainder of my day, and all the other days I was home for that matter, was spent puttering around the house and going for walks through farmers’ fields along the marsh. That’s another great thing about the East Coast – you can walk freely on another man’s property without a suspicious eye targeted your way or a patrol car sidling up beside you.

I ate supper at an actual dinner table at a reasonable time of day, rather than my 8 pm routine of balancing a plate of supper on my knees as I distracted myself with television. I dialed it back a bit, took a few longer breaths, and actually tilted my head upward to see the stars. And, just once, I swear I actually heard snow fall. It was exhilarating.

But rather than get too nostalgic, I’ve been doing my best to incorporate the things I liked best about being on the East Coast into my life here in the city. I’ve been forcing myself to leave work on time so that I can go home and eat supper at a reasonable hour – at the dinner table of all places. I smile at bus drivers and strangers whenever I can, I say “thank you” as often and as heartfelt as possible, and most of all, I’ve been drinking a heck of a lot of tea.

Because it doesn’t really matter where I lay my head at night – in my heart, the East Coast will always be home.

This recipe is adapted from one my dad clipped out of the local newspaper I used to work for. It’s an even sweeter twist on the classic sugar cookie, incorporating my favourite of all genuine East Coast ingredients, pure maple syrup. A dusting of warm cinnamon really does the trick to make them the perfect accompaniment to a steaming cup of black tea.

Tools

Small and large mixing bowls
Measuring cups and spoons
Wooden spoon
Pastry cutter
Large baking sheet
Spatula
Wire rack

Ingredients

1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp white sugar, divided
4 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
1 tbsp pure maple syrup

Instructions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, combine 2 tbsp white sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, brown sugar and remaining 1/2 cup white sugar. Cut in butter and stir in maple syrup. Form into small 1-inch balls and roll in cinnamon mixture to coat (If mixture won’t easily form into balls, drizzle in additional maple syrup and pack well with your hands). Place cookies on a large baking sheet, leaving 1 to 2 inches between each. Bake for 15 minutes, until bottoms are light golden and tops begin to lightly crack. Let cool on sheet for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!