Category Archives: Hudson River Valley

Carol’s Corn Chowder

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, NY  I  Saturday, 14 January 2017

Lately, I’ve felt like eating soup all the time. It’s sooo comforting, after Christmas is over and the bleak, grey, bitter-cold reality of January sets in. I only know how to make one kind of soup, corn chowder. This, of course, isn’t counting a brief foray into French Onion Soup in the 90s. (When my date wasn’t super impressed, I moved on. From French Onion Soup and him. Ha!)

I’ve also felt like eating soup a lot lately because I got a fabulous set of gumbo spoons for Christmas. (Gumbo spoons are big, like soup spoons, but rounder.) They’re in the Oneida Evening Star pattern from 1950, which was one of my mom’s wedding silverware designs. They’re so pretty and shiny, I just want to use them all the time!

I just made a big batch of corn chowder recently, because my local, small-town library has a soup sale every Wednesday evening in January. Patrons donate big batches of soup and the Library Director sets up the large community room with all kinds of Crock-Pots to keep the soups warm.

The soup sale is eagerly anticipated each year, by staff and patrons alike. It’s something to look forward to when the post-holiday blues try to creep in.

You can buy a pint of soup for $4, or a quart for $7, and they even throw in some French bread slices, too. Isn’t that a great idea for a fundraiser?

I don’t really have a recipe for my corn chowder, I just wing it. And I call it Carol’s Corn Chowder, because my mom says she liked to have a pot of this on in the church kitchen when she knew there were going to be visitors who had a long drive home. It’s easy and filling, plus you can easily stretch it if more people show up than you expected.

All I do is saute some diced onions in butter in a medium-sized Revere Ware frying pan while I’m boiling some diced, skinned potatoes to about halfway done. I cut up some hot dogs, or Smokies when I’m feeling rich and fancy, and put them in with the onions.

Everything goes into a large pot at this point.

Then I dump in some cans of creamed corn and drained regular corn, along with the drained potatoes. I stir the mixture a lot, and try to get it thoroughly warmed through before adding some milk and/or half and half. I don’t add any salt, because I figure canned corn already has plenty of sodium.

The only way you can really go wrong is if you boil the soup after adding the milk and get that creepy milk skin. So, after you add the milk or half and half, keep the heat low and stir it constantly, just until warmed through.

Voila, Carol’s Corn Chowder! It’s cheap, easy, and delicious, a great prescription for the January blues.

[AUTHOR’S NOTE]
This post was originally entitled Churchy Corn Chowder, when it was first published 14 January 2017.

Post name was later changed to Carol’s Corn Chowder and light edits were made.

Carol passed away 25 September 2017. This post was republished 25 September 2020, in her memory.

She was a wonderful cook, and is sorely missed by her family and friends. Rest easy, Mama.

 

Three Soups, Zeppelin, and Curry

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York  I  Friday, 16 February 2018

The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.
-Rabindranath Tagore

Yesterday afternoon, after I’d been to court, to face the woman who was responsible for my mother’s death, I was done for.

Emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausted.

Headache and heartache.

Starving and feeling all alone in the world.

I had decided in advance, the night before, that after I went to court, I would comfort myself with my three favorite soups. I would have a progressive lunch, taking the afternoon to eat three soups, from three different places.

I ate French Onion Soup and Coconut Soup at two different restaurants, savoring the heat of these delicious soups, and soaking up their lovely interiors, along with the smiles of their warmly engaging waitstaffs.

The French Onion Soup was from Wunderbar Bistro, on upper Warren Street, in Hudson, NY. It was served in a small, dark-brown McCoy-like bowl, rich with beef broth and sherry, topped with bread and the requisite thick slab of Swiss cheese, then garnished with green.

One of my favorite songs was playing as I began to eat, Bobby Darin’s Beyond the Sea, and I felt secure and sheltered by the Bistro’s dark wood interior, with amber pendant lighting, varnished butcher block tables, and pretty, black-clad servers, sporting buns or long straight hair, dark lipstick, and large gold hoop earrings.

In the back lounge, there were art nouveau posters, a brown leather couch by the fireplace, and a peaceful, romantic, ski lodge-kinda vibe.

The Indian restaurant is where I ate (or should I say drank?) the Coconut Soup, along with a piece of nan, and a small bowl of rice pudding. It was served by a young man wearing a mango-colored shirt, with a wide and dark, pleasant face, and the friendliest of smiles.

The Wonton Soup came from Spring Garden, a Greenport staple, and was sold to me by the ancient Asian bartender/takeout guy, with the wicked underbite and witty sayings.

I took a double portion home, to be eaten later, since it warms up nicely.

After I ate the two soups and soothed my soul, I drove along Fairview Avenue, blasting Led Zeppelin, and stopped at an independent bookstore to buy a book I’ve been wanting to read for a very long time.

Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert.

My new mantra of healing and self-discovery.

 

[MORE INFORMATION]
To read about Radindranath Tagore (1861-1941), a Bengali poet:
https://www.biography.com/people/rabindranath-tagore-9501212

Yes, that’s Steph Curry, pictured in the third photo. He and his lovely wife, Ayesha Curry, were featured in the November issue of Food & Wine magazine, and I bought it just for their article.

Steph is a basketball player for the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. Ayesha has been on several cooking shows, and has a cookbook called The Seasoned Life. They have two daughters, Riley and Ryan, and are expecting a third baby.

 

 

REPOST: Welcome to Skinny Classics!

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Columbia County, NY  I  26 November 2017

(Author’s note: this was originally published on 1 May 2015, when I was still living in West Valley City, Utah. Enjoy!)

DSCF7806LUNCH WITH ETHAN/7806BB

Howdy, friends and family! Would you like to read some books with me? OF COURSE you would! Pretty sure I don’t have any friends who don’t like to read, as I’ve been selling books for the past fifteen years. I also hung with a pretty bookish crowd in high school. Of course, we didn’t spend much time reading for pleasure back then, since we were too busy studying for tests and cruisin’ the boat docks by the Hudson River.

But, as an elementary school kid, I’d read five library books a week (thank you, Philmont Public Library!), as I lived way out in the country with no friends nearer than a mile away. A great treat was to go to Bookland, an indie bookstore near where my mom grocery shopped. I still remember the little, round, yellow kiddie table in the back, and spending my babysitting or house cleaning money on book after book after book…

This idea has been dancing around in my head for a long time, the idea of a Skinny Classics Book Club. There were even physical meetings for awhile, but I had to stop going because the only time we book peeps could all get together was on Sunday nights, when our store closed early, and that just didn’t work for me.

Sunday nights were a flurry of motherly activity: most importantly, squeezing in a nap after church, and secondly: making a nice Sunday dinner, cleaning up afterwards, getting Thing 1 and Thing 2’s lunch money envelopes and school clothes ready, signing school papers (NO! They could not POSSIBLY have been dug out of a festering backpack on Friday afternoon!) and preparing my own lunch and clothes for work the next day.

Monday morning comes so very early.

Most of my friends at the time were younger, and either single or without kids, and seemed to have waaay more play time than I did. I simply just couldn’t carve out the time anymore.

Years later, enter my friend Jason (he’s the one who came up with my blog’s tag line: pretty living for pennies). He and I fantasize quite a bit about co-teaching a high school English class. Half the year will be spent reading and discussing Skinny Classics (under 250 pages), and will be taught by yours truly.

The other half of the year will consist of reading books which are indicators of the time they were published. (The Great Gatsby is the perfect example of a book which details the history and society of the time it was written, the Roaring Twenties.) Jason will teach that half of the year.

Now, if we could just stop fighting over where the class will be held. He says California, she says New York. NO WAY are we meeting in the middle, in Kansas, so don’t bother to bring it up.

Continue reading

Welcome to Skinny Classics!

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  West Valley City, Utah  I  1 May 2015

DSCF7806LUNCH WITH ETHAN/7806BB

Howdy, friends and family! Would you like to read some books with me? OF COURSE you would! Pretty sure I don’t have any friends who don’t like to read, as I’ve been selling books for the past fifteen years. I also hung with a pretty bookish crowd in high school. Of course we didn’t spend much time reading for pleasure back then, we were too busy studying for tests and cruisin’ the boat docks by the Hudson River.

But, as an elementary school kid, I’d read five library books a week (thank you, Philmont Library!), as I lived way out in the country with no friends nearer than a mile away. A great treat was to go to Bookland, an indie bookstore near where my mom grocery shopped. I still remember the little, round, yellow kiddie table in the back, and spending my babysitting or housecleaning money on book after book after book…

This idea has been dancing around in my head for a long time, the idea of a Skinny Classics Book Club. There were even physical meetings for awhile, but I had to stop going because the only time we book peeps could all get together was on Sunday nights, when our store closed early, and that just didn’t work for me.

Sunday nights were a flurry of motherly activity: most importantly, squeezing in a nap after church, and secondly: making a nice Sunday dinner, cleaning up afterwards, getting lunch money envelopes and school clothes ready, signing school papers (NO! They could not POSSIBLY have been dug out of a festering backpack on Friday afternoon!) and preparing my own lunch and clothes for work the next day.

Monday morning comes so very early.

Most of my friends at the time were younger, and either single or without kids, and seemed to have waaay more play time than I did. I simply just couldn’t carve out the time anymore.

Year later, enter my friend Jason (he’s the one who came up with my blog’s tag line: pretty living for pennies). He and I fantasize quite a bit about co-teaching a high school English class. Half the year will be spent reading and discussing Skinny (under 250 pages) Classics, taught by yours truly.

The other half will consist of reading books which are indicators of the time they were published. (The Great Gatsby is the perfect example of a book which details the history and society of the time it was written, the Roaring Twenties.) Jason will teach that half of the year.

Now, if we could just stop fighting over where the class will be held. He says California, she says New York. NO WAY are we meeting in the middle, in Kansas, so don’t bother to bring it up.

Continue reading