By Lora Abernathy
My grandma did all of the cooking in her house. The “Mary’s Kitchen” plaque in the shape of a frying pan that still hangs above the toaster was only a light-hearted warning, but a warning nonetheless.
A few weeks after she died, I drove over to West Virginia to visit Grandpa. I got quite a surprise when I opened the door: There was a delicious smell coming from the kitchen.
“He’s making vegetable soup for you,” my mom said as she greeted me, noticing my reaction and clearing up my confusion.
“Grandpa’s cooking?” I asked slowly, with wide eyes.
“Yeah, he’s been cooking quite a bit lately,” she said.
I peeked my head through the doorway to the kitchen. There was my 91-year-old grandpa, Russell, stirring the red stew I had smelled as it was simmering on the stove.
Mom, Grandpa, my sister, Lindsay, and I soon dug in. This dish did not disappoint. This was the best-tasting vegetable soup I’d ever had. The only reason I stopped at seconds was because I’d gotten too full.
I immediately asked him for the recipe — which he gladly gave me — as Mom helped me translate his “approximatelys” to exact measurements and his “then you just gottas” to specific directions.
In August, Mom and Lindsay came to Ohio for a weekend visit. I wanted Mom to be there as I made the soup for the first time in case I had missed something when Grandpa gave me the recipe. Everything went according to plan and after 2 1/2 hours, we had a fantastic dinner. We were all pleased, including my husband who doesn’t eat vegetable soup, calling it “very flavorful.”
Grandma no longer cooks or bakes in her kitchen. Though she might initially raise a friendly eyebrow at someone else in charge of it, I know she’d be happy that Grandpa is using it to continue to dish out the love that always brings our family together around the kitchen table.
RUSSELL’S RUSTIC VEGETABLE SOUP
1-1 1/2 pounds beef stew beef, cubes
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1/3 onion, diced
1/2 cup mini carrots, diced
2-3 celery stalks, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
2 quarts Campbell’s tomato juice
One 14.5-ounce can corn, mostly drained
One 14.5-ounce can peas, mostly drained
One 14.5-ounce can chunk tomatoes
Thinly slice the beef. In a large pot, add olive oil and brown the beef, being careful not to overcook. Add salt and pepper. Drain the oil as much as possible.
Add onion, cook until translucent. Add carrots, celery, green pepper, tomato juice corn, peas and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer until meat is tender, approximately 2-3 hours. Add more salt and pepper, if desired, to taste.