Story last updated at 10/2/2012 - 1:17 pm
Let's take a trip in Mr. Peabody's Way Back machine...and if you actually get the reference, we are truly kindred spirits. Yep, let's talk about childhood. My childhood covered most of the 70s, which has caused me Fashion Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but that's another blog entirely. Hmmm... "Midgi, Dresses for Success"... I think I had better stick with food.
Funny thing about childhood, as you grow older you forget things. Friends names, favorite toys, landmarks, teachers, etc. But, one thing I never forget, you guessed it, food. I remember some of the best lunches we ever had as kids were the ones my mom would make us on Saturday afternoons. There's just something about hot lunches on weekends. Kids seem to think they've hit the honey pot of culinary heaven because mom made condensed tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Oh, and throw in a few crinkled chips and yeah, you have a kids' gourmet meal.
My mom is an excellent cook, I learned from the best. But I have to say in my 8-year-old mind I could not fathom how they (the mysterious soup kings known only to us mortals as "they") could take an orangey-reddish congealed mass that comes out of can with a shlurp, add a can of water - from the tap, no bottle water, thank you - and end up with something that tasted quite good. I only knew that I liked it. A lot. I must say though, I often did wonder why it was orange in color, and not really red like tomatoes. Alas, a mystery for the ages.
Well, needless to say I thought my mom was magic! Why, anyone who could make shlurp tasty was special indeed.
And of course, she paired that with America's favorite sandwich, grilled cheese. White bread and processed cheese, neither of which has any nutritional value whatsoever. That leads me to ask, why is it that something with absolutely no nutritional value can taste so euphorically good? More research is needed. Please feel free to email your theories. Mine is the gooey factor. Just about anything melted and gooey is going to rate high on the "must eat" scale.
I remember sitting at the kitchen table, eagerly anticipating the warm orangey goodness and gooey cheesy delight. My older brother Chris was much too fastidious than either my younger brother, or I. He would drink his soup from a mug and eat his sandwich quite neatly, and excuse himself from the table with much formality. Now Todd, the younger, was the gluttonous child. He was finished with the entire meal before I had even tasted the sandwich. Being the middle child, and the only girl, I was what one could term as the methodical eater.
I had a system. A well thought out system of consuming condensed tomato soup and grilled processed cheese sandwiches. One that included a balance of the soup to sandwich ratio so that by the end of my dining experience, I had mere drops and crumbs. It was inconceivable to have a greater portion of either. Harmony and balance in all things, I say.
Step 1) Enjoy the view; take in the visuals of tomato-ish colored liquid and melted cheese oozing from toasted bread. Appreciate the artwork of a finely crafted meal.
Step 2) Reverently taste soup, dipping gently into bowl so that none is spilled and therefore wasted.
Step 3) Nibble ends of sandwiches, which are cut at angles; this is a mandatory non-negotiable requirement. All sandwiches MUST be cut into equally divided triangles. Two halves is acceptable, but four quarters, well that's party food my friend.
Step 4) Carefully dip end of sandwich into hot soup, and enjoy! This was my favorite step and the one I labored on the most. My brothers were always finished before I was and that was fine by me.
Which leads me to...
Step 5) Wait until brothers are back outside playing and hit mom up for second sandwich. Oh yes, I had a system.
Moving forward in the Way Back Machine, I'm now older and the parent. I am a mother of two beautiful girls. Sami, who loves to eat and cook and Alex, who prefers to remain on the receiving end of the cooking process and simply enjoys the spoils of my labor.
I've grown and my tastes have grown. While I still love a good bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, I'm now into something with a bit more flair than shlurp. I pair my tomato soup with grilled apple bacon cheddar sandwiches. While not the white bread/processed cheese delights of my childhood, they still meet the dunking requirements and definitely fit the system.
I hope you enjoy this more grown up menu of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, and perhaps make some great memories with your family.
I invite you to share your childhood memories of warm lunches on cold sunny days, of mom preparing delicious treats, of good food and great experiences.
Until next time, eat and enjoy!
Tomato Basil Soup
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 23 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoon dried basil
2 14 oz cans chicken or vegetable broth
1 - 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped.
Heat olive oil in large pot on medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and garlic, sauté until tender and translucent. Add crushed tomatoes. Bring soup to strong simmer, add one can broth and the basil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes on medium-low heat.
Remove from heat, and gently ladle into blender. Be careful, do not over fill the blender. Cover top of blender with towel. Puree until smooth and creamy texture. Repeat process until all soup has been thoroughly blended. Return to pot. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer additional 10 minutes, serve with fresh basil for garnish.
Grilled Apple Bacon Cheddar Sandwiches
4 thick slices Ciabatta or whole grain bread
2 slices medium or sharp cheddar cheese
3 slices thick cut bacon, cut in half
1 granny smith apple sliced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fry bacon to desired crispness. Grill apples in grill pan on medium heat. To assemble: On one slice of bread, place grilled apples, bacon and cheddar cheese. Place open sandwiches in oven, until cheese has melted. Cover with second slice of bread. Cut into triangles.
Kelly Moore, a.k.a. Midgi, writes and cooks from Juneau. Visit her blog, www.mealswithmidgi.com, for additional stories and recipes. She may be reached at midgi@ mealswithmidgi.com.