Why Hello There and welcome once again to Kitchen Catastrophes. I’m your slovenly drunk spouting mad ramblings that will only make sense in Act 2, Jon O’Guin. Ignore my foreshadowing at your own peril, and be a lad and fetch me some gin, will ya? Today’s recipe is, in many ways, the greatest catastrophe we’ve ever perpetuated on this site, but let’s not rush things, eh? First, let’s set the stage for the unfolding shittiness, shall we? And show how a well-intentioned effort to do something interesting can go terribly astray.
First, let’s lay out the brutal truth: I’ve made reference in a couple posts regarding my father’s recent hospitalization, and the difficulty It caused my family. Well, as I said some weeks ago, he returned home! Unfortunately, he returned with a…difficult prognosis. My father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and is presently undergoing chemo therapy. So, you know, if I’ve been less funny for the last month, now YOU’RE the asshole! HaHA! Snatched that moral high ground from under your feet, dickweed!
Come at me bro. I dare you. I double-dog dare you. I will cleave your goddamn limbs off.
Anywho, this has (as anyone other than that dick I just cut into a torso of sorrow will admit) understandably made scheduling things incredibly difficult for the last few weeks. At one juncture, I realized that, despite having returned home, we had made 7 different doctor’s visits in a 6 day span, which would almost be too high a number for visits to the bathroom, in my opinion, let alone the doctor’s officer. Wait, shit, you shit in bathrooms. Or bathe. I suppose it’s not weird if you count both.
Anyway, Further burdening my life with his inconsiderate cancer, my father’s condition and constant internal pain has placed him on a mechanically soft diet. What the shit does that mean, you virile and healthy readers enquire, having so far avoided the indignities of illness? Well, basically, if it takes more than two chews, throw that shit the fuck out. You’re one step above a 2 year old here. We at least assume you won’t suffocate on honey, so be grateful. But if you have to actually engage your incisors, I swear I will slap that shit off your fork.
Doesn't all food use my incisors, Jon? I MEANT CANINES. SHIT.
This led to a restructuring of our food storage spaces, and the contents of our fridge, as well as my ability to plan for meals, since now any meal we ate either had to be mechanically soft, or we had to cook two separate meals. So, in an effort to show solidarity with sickie-poo, my mother and I decided to make a meal we could all eat together! And, since I have an inflated sense of ability, I figured I could make whatever the shit I wanted!
My, This Road is Certainly Well-Paved.
So, the basics are set: a sick father, a dutiful and arrogant son, and a well-meaning mother. At this point, one assumes The Devil enters the picture, and soon the son ends up in some kind of fairytale bullshit resolved by a magic comb, or as Ghost Rider. Roughly even odds. Sadly, the Devil refused to return my calls, due to me absolutely ruining his daughter’s cello recital a few months ago. Instead, we had to turn to simple questionable decision making.
See, among the few things my father likes that doesn’t come from a cardboard box is that vegetal herald of spring’s resurgence, that ruiner of piss streams around the world, the noble Asparagus. And it turns out that you can make creamed Asparagus soup. Boom, easy sell. Hell, we even have some, because we planned to eat it with some forgotten remnant of the life we led before. She pitches it to my dad, and he says “Actually, I think I want some cream of broccoli soup.” She shrugs, turns to me, and says “Can we make either of those?”
“Of course!” I proclaim “Hell, I can make a soup out of BOTH.”
And that’s how we ended up here.
Blazing Hot Metal, check. Smoke, Check. Broccoli, Check. Yep, this is pretty definitely Hell.
So, I considered the issue, and read through a couple recipes for both asparagus soup and broccoli soup, and decided what we should do is roast them, because, hey, I’m as big a fan of asparagus as the next guy, meaning I only eat it when it comes to me covered in cheese sauce or roasted. Roast some garlic and onions with those bad boys, we got some solid ingredients for a soup base. One problem: roasting these is gonna take like, 30 minutes, and setting up all this shit took till like, 8. So either we start now, I make the whole soup alone, working until like 10, or we roast now, cook tomorrow. And these quack doctors keep scheduling things at the ungodly hour of 9 AM, so I’ve had to get up at 7 AM, an hour I assume is forbidden by the Geneva conventions. So we decide to roast now, cook later.
The next day, roasted, rested, and rejuvenated, we began the process. Or, rather, my father and I went shopping for chickens. Not like, cooked chickens. Oh no, we went chick and pullet shopping.
For you ornithologically uninformed, "pullets" are female chicks. Also, maybe 8 people will know why I chose this picture specifically to show off the concept of "Chickens".
You might ask “Holy crap, you guys raise chickens?!” ending your sentence with an interrobang, possibly the best named punctuation point in English. To which I would say “Nope.” “Oh. Then why…?” The answer to your unfinished interrogative is…complicated. Or amazingly simple, I can’t tell. See, for some time now, my mother has been hectoring my father about getting chickens in the backyard. I’d explain why, but my family has learned over the years to never really investigate each other’s motivations: just accept that this is a thing they want, form an opinion about it, and move on. My personal theory is simply that, well, we don’t use our backyard anymore. Our dogs passed away while I was in Pullman, and for some similarly uninvestigated reason, we’ve made no efforts to acquire new ones. The deck we used to get outside, as you saw in the Grilled Fruit post, is a rickety death trap, and the other route is through a part of the house we unironically call “The junk room”. So I figure it’s a sort of incentive to care: if we have chickens in the backyard, we HAVE to start using it and maintaining it. My father was apathetically against it for some time, and then apparently had decided “You know what? We’ve got the money, and our anniversary is the weekend before Easter this year, so why not?” He apparently made this decision in secret a week or two before his hospitalization, and informed me of his choice April 3rd, as I prepared to leave town for a weekend. “Yeah, I’m thinking of getting your mom some chickens for the backyard.” “Oh, neat.” “Yeah, I figure they’ll make a good Easter gift.” “….Easter? That holiday that’s 13 days away? You want to pick out a coop, have it delivered, build it, and fill it with Chickens in 13 days, while you’re bedridden from pain, and I’m out of town for 5 of them?” “Yeah.” I stare at him in blank dismay, then sigh and crack my neck. “…Okay, well, when I get back from Wenatchee, we’ll start looking into it.”
Suffice to say, we haven’t gotten chickens yet. But, true to my word, I got back from Wenatchee, roasted some veggies, and the next day he and I did tool around to the various farm supply stores, and check out a couple options. You may be asking, “Jon, what did that have to do with making the soup?” To which I reply “Oh, I’m sorry, is my quality time with my FATHER WHO HAS CANCER inconvenient to you?!” Boom, Back on the Moral High Ground! You keep letting your guard down, sucker!
It’s Not Easy, Eating Green
But, yeah, that tangent was really because the rest of the process is pretty simple: You blend the veggies with chicken broth, season it, and simmer it. Now, since I was on point for this mission, I undertook the task of handling…basically all of that. The veggies blended pretty simply, being, you know, roasted vegetables.
Vegetables win few battles in life.
After that, it was a matter of proper seasoning and texture. I tasted the soup, and as it was, it was earthy with some bitterness. So I went about doing what I do best: balancing seasonings. Last week, I mentioned that food pairings are a process with questionable validity. Not so with FLAVOR balancing: everyone agrees that proper flavor management is key to great cuisine. So I started with some easy contenders: lemon zest just made sense, as a companion to both roasted asparagus and broccoli. Salt and Pepper, of course. Then I went a little off the normal path with some celery salt (reinforcing the vegetal qualities of the soup) and white pepper (a little more earthy warmth). Some cumin for the same reason as the white pepper: my goal was for a soup that felt warming, solid, and tasted like spring.
The major component my mother was upset by was texture: the soup had a mildly irritating sense of “grit” to it. Not like sand, but more like it was just never fully coming together. We minimized this by running the soup through a fine mesh strainer and incorporating heavy cream, and in the end, decided the soup was good enough.
So, how did it taste? I don’t know. Remember when I told you this was perhaps the greatest catastrophe we’ve ever made? Yeah, as far as I’m aware this is the only thing I’ve made for the site that I didn’t actually eat. We made it the Sunday and Monday before Easter, and then…well, asparagus and broccoli aren’t the most amazing components for one’s olfactory department, or, in layman’s terms: the soup smelled. It was pungent, and between cooking meals for my dad, running around to get shelving, and discussing ideas for a chicken coop and what we’d need to make it work, it just sat in the fridge for 8 or 9 days, at which point my mother purged it, because she thinks any food that has been in the fridge longer than a work-week has become poison.
To be fair, this has a definite "swamp-venom" vibe.
And I’ll tell you, that wasn’t a great feeling. It’s the kind of moment that can shift a person’s feelings about food: to spend over an hour tinkering and working to get something just right, and then see it thrown away, never having been consumed. It makes your efforts feel pointless and idiotic. You know it’s not totally your fault: we ate out several times around Easter Weekend because my brother was visiting, so we went to the restaurants he likes, and Easter Dinner itself was a whole ordeal…But to try and fight and fail, it wearies a soul. How do you deal with a failure like that? I can’t answer for you, I can only make my answer: Who cares?
Sure, it sucked that we didn’t end up eating the food, yeah, it’s kind of emblematic of white middle-class privilege to make a main course and throw it away without touching it, but you know what? Asparagus is like, $2 a pound right now. Broccoli is about the same. The whole container was worth maybe $5 of effort. I’ve had much worse culinary experiences for $5. Even if you throw in the cost of my labor, we’re looking at $20, but here’s the thing: I get a return on that investment. Yeah, the soup didn’t work. But I tried. I made something in the hopes it would make my dad better, and while it didn’t succeed, it served as a physical sign of my efforts. A reminder of the hours I’ve been sitting by hospital beds, the runs to pharmacies, and the trips to chemo. The soup, despite not being consumed, had a meaning. Sure, it was a culinary catastrophe, but at least it wasn’t an emotional one.
Now more than ever, we’re grateful for your support of what we do here. We can’t thank you enough for liking us on Facebook, sharing our posts with your friends, and especially our dedicated Patreon supporters, who have had to deal with a ton of delays and schedule errors as we deal with these issues. I assure you, your contributions and support have been a stabilizing force in the scary, day-to-day struggle of this process.
NEXT TIME: JON’S VOCABULARY IS BACK UP-TO-SNUFF. A RETURN TO THE CULINARY COMPENDIUM!
Roasted Brocco-Gus Soup
Serves I dunno.
1 lb asparagus
1 lb broccoli
1 small onion
5 cloves garlic
4 tbsp olive oil
1 quart chicken broth
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp beau monde (mixture of salt and celery seed) or celery salt
1 cup heavy cream
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the broccoli, asparagus, onion and garlic in the olive oil, and place on two rimmed baking sheets. Roast for 25 minutes, swapping racks and rotating halfway through. You can blend while hot, or let cool and blend later.
- Peel the garlic, and put all the roasted vegtables into your blender. Add the chicken broth, and puree until consistently smooth. Pour into a large saucepan.
- Add seasonings and heavy cream and put the pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until beginning to bubble. If desired, run soup through a fine mesh strainer to make even smoother. Serve warm.