Soul Food

Guess what time my alarm went off Sunday morning? My one morning in five months with no children – well, that was until late Saturday night when my Suburban turned back into the Baby Bus at midnight and we had to go pick-up one of our girls at their ‘sleepover party.’

Chuck and I were on our way home from a fabulous charity event in Cincinnati. I’m not exaggerating – we were in the midst of a conversation about how nice it was to get out for an evening as a couple– not the parents of five children – when my phone rang.

As soon as I answered my sister’s call by saying, “What’s wrong?” I could hear Bianca sobbing in the background.

Initially, I thought Bianca was homesick but then my sister told me she’d woken-up in a coughing fit so uncontrollable that she’d made herself throw-up.

In a second, I went from feeling liberated by this night out to feeling completely helpless almost an hour away from my baby. It’s amazing how our circumstances impact our emotions. It’s like that old expression I constantly told my boys when they were younger and I’d catch them “play wrestling.” It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Gets Hurt.

So we picked Bianca up at my sisters – by this time she had completely recovered – and headed home still two babies lighter than usual as the little girls were at Chuck’s sister’s house.

I don’t know why, habit I guess, but as I climbed into bed I must have hit my alarm…because the next thing I knew it was 6:15 a.m. and I was wide awake! I turned the alarm off and tried my hardest to convince myself to go back to bed to no avail. Isn’t that how it always happens? When we have to get-up, it feels like a crane couldn’t lift us out of bed. But those mornings when we don’t have to be somewhere at 0’Dark Thirty we can’t seem to keep our eyes closed. This always happens to me on weekends and vacations.

When I’m in Alabama, Colorado, Honduras…wherever I’m traveling – I’m up before everyone else. Last year in Disney World (while I was five months pregnant) I was up every morning with the sun. Why? Because I was excited to start my day. Duh – I was in Disney World, one of my all-time favorite places ever!

So Sunday morning as I was failing to force myself back to sleep I realized what I was excited about. Bianca and I were going back to my sister’s house to finish her ‘sleepover party.’ My brother-in-law was fixing breakfast for us, even though Bianca had to jump ship in the middle of the night.

When I hear the expression, “Soul Food” – a term historically used to describe African American food – I don’t think of food. Instead I think of the soul. Don’t get me wrong, my brother-in-law is a great cook, but the experience of sitting down around his table is much more important and memorable to be than the meal.

I vividly remember a night when I was still in college and my sister, brother-in-law and I sat up all night – just talking around their kitchen table. Mike had to work the next day. I had to go to class. There wasn’t some huge family crisis we were trying to solve. We just got caught-up in conversation, and before we knew it – the sun was coming up over the cattle pasture out their kitchen window.

That, to me, is what family is all about.

After breakfast, Bianca and I went to pick the babies up. On the way, my mom called from my aunt’s house and told me she was fixing dinner for my niece’s birthday.

We arrived at my aunt’s house where my whole family was congregated. My niece was asleep on the couch in the basement. My cousins’ wives were making jewelry while my sister worked on a quilt in the sewing room. My mom and aunt were watching the soup on the stove, and the men were gathered around the table talking.

When people try to describe the feeling of ‘home,’ this is the picture I get in my mind. Home is someplace where your breath slows upon entry. Home is where you know you can be yourself –and people will still love you anyway. Home is where you can gather around the table and literally talk all night.

And while “Soul Food” will always be more about the company than the food for me – the soup my mom made that night was “Knock Your Socks Off.”

My mom found the recipe in her Ninth Street House Cookbook – one of our favorite restaurants in Paducah growing-up.  I don’t know if Curtis Grace – the owner of The Ninth Street House – concocted it or not, but I feel the need to thank him. It was delicious.

*Warning – the ingredients do not do this soup justice. It’s much better to taste it first and then see what’s in it. Don’t be scared by the ingredients. Alone, they might seem an odd combination, but they meld together beautifully!


Succotash Soup

½ stick of butter

1 medium size onion, chopped

½ teaspoon curry powder

salt and pepper to taste

1 8 ¾ ounce can cream style corn

2 10 ½ ounce cans oyster stew

1 16 ounce can Italian tomatoes

8 ounces sour cream


Melt butter, add chopped onion, cook over low heat until transparent, add curry powder, salt and pepper, heat and mix well. Chop and add all the other ingredients. Mix well and heat. This is better if made the day before serving. Serve hot or cold.