Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Back to the Prairie: Cup of Warm Comfort

   The visit of cool fall weather lead my mind down paths from long ago to a table where family gathered around and the howling of the wind outside was quieted just a bit by the soothing steam from a cup of warm comfort.

   I do not like cold weather. Cold weather means shoes and days indoors. Whenever a crisp bite is carried on the winds I can be sure to hear all about "catching my death' and how cracked my lips are or the intense need for shoes 'on those feet'. The prairie around me is about to look dead and makes me so sad. The stern look from my grandmother yields my will; unwillingly I snatch my long forgotten shoes up and head for the door.
   Sitting on the step...begrudgingly lacing up the freedom-stealing villains, the barn kitties nuzzle my cheeks. They understand my plight (after all, they wouldn't want to wear shoes either). Cradling a long haired grey one in my arms, I set off down the gravel drive and ponder the sting of cold air and the shivers it brings.
   As afternoon starts to fall and the sun set reminds me of chores that amazingly slipped my mind, the warmth of the farmhouse calls to me. The kitty and I head for the back door with least I kept my shoes on.
   The creak of the back door brings an air of warmth inviting me in; shoes are shed in an instant as my bare toes shrivel at the chill of the kitchen floor. Peeking around the door frame I spy my grandmother at the stove stirring a large soup pot. Get on in here and warm up, you look have frozen. Relief, no mention of the chores. A faint scent is found, stronger with every step, something warm and inviting. Grandpa turns to me from his chair at the table. He smiles thought I was going to have to come looking for ya. His twinkling blue eyes let me know it's okay, and a surprise is in store.  
   Climbing up beside him, he offers my a cracker topped 'his way'; summer sausage and cheese cut thick. Others gather from here and there to take their seats around the table as my grandmother serves hot steaming mugs of buttery oyster stew. Salty and soothing...totally worth burning your mouth over! Grandpa crumbles a heaping handful of crackers in me a playful elbow..he knows I hate soggy crackers. Then there's the pepper...he shakes a heap of pepper on their that scares away a cold. Yea, no! I sip mine...buttery and creamy and just hot enough to warm you 'all the way down' wacky additions..just straight up.
   Around the table we all sit; stories are of the day...while soup mugs are finished and refilled; crackers are mushed up mercilessly with reckless abandon. Then, I reach the bottom of my tasty cup...yuck!..a sight that sends a cringe all over me...the oyster. Few things on this earth I can't stand the taste of more than a rubbery, gravely old oyster. Grandpa gets a hearty chuckle at me...what did you think was in it? Okay, but you didn't have to give me one...

   The tempting aroma of this rich and creamy soup lingers in my mind today as memories of those chilled nights run through does the disturbing taste of those nasty oysters at the bottom of the cup. Due to my utter disdain for them, I never learned to make the soup myself..and have never had it outside their home. Never the less, nothing warms the soul quite like family gathered around a table sharing the thoughts of the day and a cup of warm comfort.

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