Today’s Soup & Stories post is from a great friend and fellow CatholicMom.com contributor Catherine Boucher. Catherine is living proof that Nebraska Cornhusker fans are indeed people, too. (Sorry, this Iowa State alum couldn’t resist!) Catherine and I first met virtually through our CatholicMom.com connections, and our friendship has truly developed into a gift. We met in real life this past December, and our lunch date was so comfortable it felt like we had known each other since childhood!
Catherine’s digital home is at Hallelujah is My Song and her monthly columns for CatholicMom.com are archived here. She writes with such grace and joy that I always learn something and am uplifted after reading her columns. If time is on your side, please do consider dropping by those sites.
First, a note from Catherine: This post in no way is intended to reignite the so-called “mommy wars.” I know tremendous mothers who work in and outside of the home. This post is simply about how a warm bowl of soup helped me to realize that God was calling me to be at home.
* * *
Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, I taught Spanish at an all-girls Catholic high school. I was always blown away by the parents’ involvement and level of support for their daughters. Several of the moms did not work outside of the home and were able to volunteer on a regular basis during the school day. One of the many volunteer options was preparing a special soup lunch for the school staff.
I will never forget being showered by these kind and generous women with a warm bowl of delicious soup, freshly baked bread, and a gourmet bar for dessert. It was such a treat to have a warm, homemade meal in the middle of an otherwise ordinary day. I loved having the mothers in the building, and I grew to appreciate their presence even more when our first child, Jane, was born. The mothers’ presence at school reminded me that each of my students were as special to their families as my own child was to me, and I needed to treat each of my students as the precious children that they were.
Hearing the mothers laugh and talk with each other between serving the staff their bowls of soup solidified my vocation. They shared stories of their children whose ages ranged the gamut from newborns to twentysomethings. When the moms lovingly placed all of the lunch components on my tray and told me “thank you” for working at their daughters’ school, I realized that I wanted that. I wanted to drive carpool, hear stories from the school day over a snack at the kitchen counter, volunteer for lunch duty, attend school Mass, etc. I wanted to be present without being a “helicopter parent,” hovering over my child’s every move. I wanted to be the steady, loving presence creating a framework for their day-to-day lives so that they could have the freedom to flourish in their own time and way.
So, that May, after teaching for two years, I went into “early retirement” to stay at home with our then 3-month-old baby girl. Since then, I’ve been honing my own mama bear skills as our family grows. I’m very much still a work in progress, but the chicken & wild rice soup recipe from the school moms is fail proof! I make it often, and it always makes me think of the loving women that helped me to realize my vocation.
Chicken & Wild Rice Soup (download PDF copy here)
5 cups chicken broth
4 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 cans cream of celery soup
2 pints half and half
4 cups cooked wild rice (one box)
4 tablespoons cooking sherry
4 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed (to save time, you can use rotisserie chicken)
2 carrots shredded
1 onion diced
4 tablespoons butter
8 oz. can of mushrooms, drained (or sauté 8 oz. fresh sliced mushrooms)
2 French baguettes for serving
Melt butter, sauté onions (and mushrooms if fresh), add chicken broth, soups, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Best if made at least 1 day before serving.
Helpful hint: This recipe makes a lot, and I love to have leftovers. I ladle leftovers into freezer quart-sized bags. Then, I lay them flat in the freezer. Once they are frozen, I label them and stack them vertically in my freezer inside a box to create a “file” of frozen foods. The soup thaws much faster this way when you’re ready to eat it!
I don’t have a picture of the fresh soup (which would have been a lot better to make it look delicious), but I DO have pictures of it frozen!