EDITOR’S NOTE: Martes Chronicles is Headchef’s new regular column, and can be found here at Reducer every Tuesday.
If you’re living in one of the 17+ states currently experiencing a brutal heatwave; you’ve probably noticed that it’s hot out, Bucky.
The last few days have featured the kind of heat and humidity that give Vietnam flashbacks to 8 year-olds, and fill the heads of adults and children alike with elaborate plans for refrigerator tents.
It’s uncomfortable at best, but some people are behaving as though this is the first time in recorded history that summer has been hot. Having spend the summers of my youth in New Mexico, Texas and Florida; the heatwave we’re experiencing in Minnesota lacks a certain novelty for me. Don’t get me wrong; it’s gross and I hate it and I wouldn’t recommend going out and playing soccer in it, but having toughed it out as a wheezing little kid, it’s not so tough as a wheezing adult.
In this kind of weather most people would rather be doing two-a-day football practices than spend any time cooking in a kitchen, so they go to restaurants to enjoy the air conditioning (a feature typically not installed in the kitchen where your food is being made). Even barbequing, a normally robust and favored activity, becomes dangerous when the heat index is pushing 115°.
People with working air conditioning don’t really have this problem. When you live in a perpetually-chilled wine cellar, not only does the heat outside not bother you, but you’re not subject to the hot-weather metabolism everyone else is experiencing. For example; if you’re out in the hot sun all day (or an ancient apartment building with no AC) and you can actually muster the energy to eat, you’re probably going to crave lighter fare like salads or pitchers of margaritas. Maybe you can stomach a hamburger if it’s late enough at night, but for the most part you and food maintain a tenuous distance during the hottest days of summer.
Not the privileged few living in the blast-chiller. People with AC are living in the future. Four months in the future, to be exact. Their bodies have been magically transported to November and so have their appetites. Air conditioning isn’t what jacks up your electricity in the summer; it’s the crockpot and bread machine you’ll have running at all times if you DO have AC. This is why people from Florida and Houston, where it’s 110° and humid all year round, are still so damn fat.
Head to a place with 100°+ weather and oppressive humidity where AC is a rare exception rather than the rule; and you’re pretty likely to find people eating hot soup in order to cool down. Pho, ramen, miso, matzoh ball, caldo- these are all perfect summer soups. I live on these soups during the summer.
In fact, if I don’t have hot soup for a meal at least once a week during the summer I tend to get really bad colds because I ride my bike in the city and inhale a lot of toxic shit. You ever ride your bike on a hot, dusty day and end up feeling like your palate is made of steel wool? Hot soup (especially spicy soups) will make you feel human again. Miso soup is particularly good for removing toxins related to air pollution, and a well-made bowl can be shockingly refreshing at the end of a hot day dodging traffic.
Caldo de Pollo, or Mexican chicken soup, is my favorite standby. Pretty much any Mexican broth-centric soup is good eating in this weather. Most of them are based on simple stocks offset with whatever is on hand. Many of them seem to work best as a breakfast, and if you’ve never experienced a huge bowl of Mexican soup for breakfast I highly recommend it. If you know where to look; there are plenty of small restaurants that specialize in it. Or you could make your own.
If you haven’t read my classic menudo recipe; you should check that out. If tripe and beef feet are a little too hardcore for you; here’s the puss-out method:
- Throw four chicken thighs in a large pot with a quartered onion, ten cloves of garlic, two bay leaves and a few peppercorns. Fill with water and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, skim off scum from top of stock and reduce (ha!) heat to simmer. Let it bubble until it reduces by 1/4.
- Cover a handfull of dried chiles in boiling water. Let sit for 20 minutes. Strain the chiles, reserving the water. Remove stems and seeds.
- Puree the chillies in the chile water with a can of tomatoes.
- Remove chicken thighs from stock and let them cool before removing bones.
- Put the chicken along with the chile mixture into the stock with 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce to a simmer. Salt to taste.
- Serve in large bowls with fried tortilla strips, avocado slices, chopped onion, chopped cilantro, wedges of lime. Fresh tortillas or Mexican bread are great for soaking up soup as well.
There you have it. It’s infinitely adaptable. I’ve made vegan and vegetarian versions of this. Experiment with it and see what you get.
Am I crazy, or does anyone else like soup in the summer?
*This is a Southern Expression. Reducer Network does not support kicking dogs.