My earliest memories of cooking involve me sliding a chair up to the kitchen counter to help my grandma make cookies, meat- and potato-filled pasties (Cornish pasties to you perhaps, but always Irish pasties in grandma’s house), sourdough pancakes, or sometimes, a steaming pot of soup. Gram’s house was the only place I was exposed to scratch cooking for many years. She taught me the basics—sift, measure, stir, taste, season (too long a list for a blog title).

Beyond those short kitchen sessions to enhance my skills, I didn’t have a lot of opportunities. Raised by a single mom, weeknight dinners consisted of frozen chicken pot pies or warmed soup from a can, and being from a small town with one small grocery store, I never even knew that there was more than one type of lettuce—for salads, we could choose iceberg or iceberg. Mom could throw together a mean buttermilk ranch dressing to top the salad. The canned cream of mushroom soup warmed with milk and topped with a pat of butter and served with buttered toast always nourished. She cooked what she knew how to cook, and I never knew I could want more.

After high school, I moved to the Pacific Northwest to the “big” city of Bellingham, Washington—population 100,000. I will never forget walking into the produce section of the grocery store and seeing the array of colors and the variety of vegetables. I had no idea carrots could be purple—or potatoes for that matter. I’d never seen anything as beautiful and intricate as romanesco and kohlrabi sounded like something you put on a hot dog. Mushrooms were not only white and button shaped; they were umbrella, bell, and trumpet shaped, some flat on top, others looking like they were picked right off a coral reef. Bell peppers were not only green, but red, yellow, and orange! And the lettuce—romaine, arugula, red leaf, green leaf…so many fruits and vegetables that would be considered exotic by hometown standards. I wanted to try them all!

I began to experiment with vegetables as well as other unusual ingredients, like quinoa—yes, even quinoa was exotic then. And while I have many recipes that I love to make, soup has become one of my favorite meals to cook and eat. From the day I made my first batch of homemade cream of mushroom soup that surpassed any I’d ever tasted, I was hooked. Delicious, nutritious, inexpensive, easy, fresh, homemade. I swore I would never buy canned soup again.

I may not be classically trained or have Michelin stars or James Beard awards, but I do love to cook. I love to learn about new flavors and ingredients and make food people love and talk about. For the last twenty-five years, I’ve hosted a group of friends every Monday during football season and by far, the best-received meals have been soups. One friend commented that I should open a food truck and serve only soup—a venture I’ve seriously contemplated pursuing. 

Today, I have so many soup recipes scribbled in books, it’s hard to determine their origin. When I can, I will add the source, but please note that I always modify the recipes to my taste. While some of the recipes may contain obscure or new-to-you ingredients, those are few and far between. Stir~Simmer~Savor recipes are meant to be accessible to everyone, with ingredients you can find at your local grocery store (or corner butcher—yes, they do still exist) with directions that are easy to understand and follow. My hope is that you, dear reader, will try something new, experiment with a classic, learn how to fix a soup when something goes awry, and easily prepare nourishing meals in the process.

Join me on my journey from grandma’s kitchen into the world of everything soup!