Sunday, January 22, 2012

Garlicky Chicken Soup ...inspired by Anna: Heart of a Peasant {book review}

Food, history, culture, struggle, triumph....Life!  I thought that the combination of all of these elements found in Anna: Heart of a Peasant made for a quick, entertaining read.  I was trying to figure out how to categorize the book...and I was thinking historical fiction...when I read Rachel's account of the story listed as fictional biography.  Yes, that's perfect.  Davis tells the story of her grandmother through her own eyes using research, facts, stories, and memories. 

 If you hang out with me at all, you've probably heard me talk about how much I adore learning about food through studying a person or place's culture, history, and people...by hearing stories and spending time with people in the place they are the most comfortable- the kitchen.   This story starts from the time Anna was very young and touches on the beliefs, religion, and symbolism that surrounded and embodied everyday rituals such as child birth, welcoming somebody into your home, harvest, and the evil eye.  It shares Anna's sad tale of banishment after a tragic accident.  One of my favorite parts of the story is when Anna meets up with and joins a band of gypsies.  She learns to read tarot cards and tea leaves and experience a much-needed, more "free" way of life than strict one she has left behind.  She eventually works for an old woman on a farm for years before buying her place amongst the other peasants on an ocean liner leaving Russia, bound for America.  Years later...with a husband, kids, grandkids, and a home of her own, Anna has achieved the American dream...but she holds fast and strong to her upbringing and her beliefs, instilled in her when she was just a child in Byelorussia.

The author of this book, Carol Marie Davis, is the mother of one of my blogging friends, Rachel of The Crispy Cook.  Though I don't know her personally, I can feel love that radiates from this project.  The memories and traditions passed down through the generations in this family...canning, preserving, hands in the earth growing food, and a respect and appreciation for the gifts that they were given.  This books ends with a small collection of recipes from or inspired by Anna's kitchen.  I would like to try them all from the Brown Bread to the Potato and Cheese Pierogies to the Cabbage Soup...but what I wound up making was a comforting pot of Garlicky Chicken Soup.  While not the exact recipe in the book, it is inspired by it and comes very close.  Just as Anna used garlic and herbs to treat the ailments of her family, I try to do the same. This helped to wipe out a few colds that were brewing on the horizon.
Anna: Heart of a Peasant
author: Carol Marie Davis
publisher: Peppertree Press
soft cover: 108 pages
"foodie" elements: yes

random excerpt: Darkness had settled in when Anna awoke to the stirring sounds of violins and laughter.  Women in billowing skirts, their eyes reflecting firelight, danced barefoot, leaping and whirling like a bevy of colorful butterflies.  She saw a group of singers stamping their feet and clacking wooden spoons to rhythmic melodies.  Half-naked children ran shrieking around the campfire, their dogs chasing them and barking.  She smelled meat sizzling on the fire and heard Janos shout: "Come out, peasant girl.  Come join the wedding celebration." p.37

summary/synopsis (from back cover):  This is the story of the real life of an exceptional woman- Anna Anisovich Olchick.  From her birth in 1886 in a small peasant village in Byelorussia, to her epic journey to America, Anna shows how determination and hard work earned her the American dream- a home of her own.

my thoughts/review: see above

about the author (from back cover): Carole Marie Davis grew up in Hastings on Hudson, New York and has taken those early memories of her family and certain times as a part of the theme for this book.  Her grandmother Anna, however, is the main character of this memoir.  Ms. Davis is the author of Moon Spirit- a Girl from Florida's Past and divides her time writing and drawing in Nokomis, Florida and Bennington, Vermont.
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Garlicky Chicken Soup

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2½ - 3 hours
Keywords: soup/stew chicken garlic American winter

Ingredients (serves 6-8)
    to start:
    • 1 whole chicken (3-4 lbs.), cut into 8 parts
    • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
    • 2 carrots, chunked
    • 2 stalks celery, chunked
    • 2 onions, quartered
    • 1 large parsnip, chunked
    • ½ bunch parsley
    • few thyme sprigs
    • 2 bay leaves
    • palmful of whole black peppercorns
    • few whole cloves
    • water, to cover
    to finish:
    • olive oil
    • 1 large onion, diced small
    • 10 cloves garlic, peeled & smashed
    • 2 carrots, diced small
    • 1 parsnip, diced small
    • 2 stalks celery, diced small
    • small handful fresh thyme sprigs, leaves stripped
    • ½ bunch parsley, chopped
    • salt
    • freshly ground black pepper
    Instructions
    starting the soup:
    Place all of the vegetables and herbs in a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Lay chicken pieces over the top and cover with cold water by a couple of inches.

    Bring to a boil, partially cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook at a slow bubble until chicken is very tender and falling off the bones, ~2 hours.

    Transfer chicken to a deep dish and let cool until you're able to handle it. Remove skin and pick all the meat from the bones. Set meat aside. Strain and discard the solids from the broth, pushing down with wooden spoon to remove as much liquid as possible. Set broth aside for the moment.

    finishing the soup:
    Return pot to the stove top over medium-high heat. Add a good glug of olive oil and let it heat up. Add onions, garlic, carrots, and parsnips to pot. Let cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until you see a few golden edges. Add celery to pot and cook for another minute or so.

    Return chicken and broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and throw in the thyme leaves and chopped parsley. Allow to simmer until veggies are just tender, 5-10 minutes more.

    Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.
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    *While I did receive a free copy of this book to read and review, should I choose...all thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% my own.
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