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Silver linings come in all forms, including treasured recipes

By Kara Kimbrough

Silver linings come in all forms, including treasured recipes
This version of vegetable beef soup is filled with large chunks of meat due to using a chuck roast instead of chopped stew meat.

It’s summer, which in the south means one thing: it’s hot. Very hot. Even so, last week I was excited to find an easy way to make one of my favorite dishes, vegetable beef soup/stew. Yes, soup can be enjoyed in the summer. It’s all in how you prepare it. Nor does it have to be served piping hot. Lukewarm will suffice in many instances. The recipe emerged from the passing of a long-time family friend who loved God and her church, First Baptist of Jackson, her family, friends and the soup made by her niece. Almost every sad event has a silver lining and this one contained several.

The passing of Canton native and long Jacksonian Mary Ann Hatten was met with sadness throughout several parts of the state. As a beloved teacher early in her career at Columbia High School, she taught and impacted the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands of students. Many still kept in touch and visited her decades later. A move to Jackson Public Schools to serve as history and civics teacher and guidance counselor at Chastain Junior - now Middle - School allowed hundreds more to benefit from her instruction, care and concern for “my kids.”

In Columbia, Mary Ann served as a teacher under my uncle, principal of CHS. He worked alongside my aunt, the school secretary, a partnership that likely wouldn’t be permitted today. A decades-long friendship continued after they all relocated to Jackson; my uncle at Mississippi Department of Education, my aunt to Peeples Middle School and Mary Ann at Chastain. Several years ago, I reconnected with her and was able to visit her cozy apartment on Old Canton Road, where she’d resided for decades.

Hearing about her frequent visits to “the Kroger” located directly behind her home, frequent stops by Gridley’s Barbecue to pick up barbecue and homemade pies to take to church and family dinners and weekly Friday night dinners to area restaurants with her friends never failed to entertain. Mary Ann was truly happy and content living there. As she explained it to me, “I have everything I need right here in the neighborhood!"

During the pandemic, she uncovered another favorite restaurant. Staff at Honey Baked Ham on Northside Drive brought food orders to her car and placed them on her back seat, a kindness she rewarded with a big tip.

As a long-time subscriber to The Clarion-Ledger, Mary Ann read my columns each week, calling to check on me if one failed to make it in that week’s food section. After reading the newspapers from cover to cover, she faithfully donated them to area animal shelters to use as cage liners.

But back to the soup recipe. I heard many stories of how her beloved niece, Janet, traveled often from Clinton to take her out to eat and drop off her favorite soup. Janet made it without tomatoes due to Mary Ann’s food allergy. I always meant to ask her for the recipe since she called it, “the best soup you’ve ever tasted.” Sadly, I never asked and due to both ladies’ passing, feel certain I’ll never know the exact ingredients.

Not to be deterred, I searched through cookbooks and my online group, Soup Lovers, to look for a recipe that met Mary Ann’s description. I received several suggestions and selected one that looked similar to Janet’s version. I loved that the recipe called for chuck roast instead of stew meat. Having to brown chunks of meat, only to have them shrivel up to half the size in the soup was always a problem.

This version is full of flavor, large chunks of beef and best of all, easy to make courtesy of the Crockpot.

And here’s a lesson to remember: if you plan “one day” to ask a friend for a recipe or even more important, want to pass on favorite family dishes to others – do it now. While it may not be the original, I feel blessed to have found a close replica of the original “best soup ever.” It’s now one of my favorite soup recipes – just one of the many blessings that resulted from the long, productive life of Mary Ann.

Mary Ann’s Vegetable Beef Soup

2-3 pounds beef chuck roast

1 cup diced onions

16 ounce bag baby carrots, left whole

1-1/2 pounds baby red potatoes, peeled and quartered (or one cup country-style hash browns)

2 cups celery, diced

1 packet Lipton Onion Soup Mix

32-ounce low-sodium beef broth

2 beef bouillon cubes (or Better than Bouillon, dissolved in water)

1 bag frozen English peas

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Optional: 6-ounce tomato paste if you prefer

Slurry:

2 tablespoons corn starch

3 tablespoons cold water

Place all ingredients in lined Crockpot set to high. Cook 8-10 hours. If possible, add potatoes and carrots 4 hours into cooking time. If that’s not possible, place them on top of the meat to cook slower.

Fifteen minutes before end of cooking, combine cornstarch and cold water and stir into soup. Let cook 15 minutes, then serve.

Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer and travel agent from Mississippi. Email her at kkprco@yahoo.com.



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