This article originally ran in 2008, when I recalled encountering someone having a hard time on Valentine’s Day in Henderson Building on campus. The soup is very nourishing, and smoked turkey is easy to find these days. Try it, and share it, with love.
Sunday is Valentine’s Day, and local restaurants will be packed with young men wooing coy, well-coiffed young women. The romantic ritual dates back to the third century in Rome with tales that suggest there may have been three different Valentines, all Christian martyrs.
One priest named Valentine performed clandestine marriage ceremonies during a time when all single young men were conscripted to join the Roman army. Another legend about Valentine suggests that he helped Christians escape from Roman prisons where they were tortured. The most popular surviving story places Valentine in a harsh Roman prison himself, and relates that he sent love notes to a young girl, possibly the jailor’s daughter, when she visited him. His last note before he was killed was signed, “from your Valentine,” the closing still popular today.
The common threads in all the stories suggest romance and courage, both estimable and enduring qualities. By the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in Europe, and his appeal has staying power.
Mid-February is a good time for a holiday. On the Ides of February, pagan Rome celebrated Lupercalia, an agricultural fertility festival that also commemorated the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, who were cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. In 498 A.D., Pope Gelasius declared Feb. 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day, indicating the Christianization of the tradition with one day upmanship.
The romance of youth is a flame that burns intensely but is hard to maintain for the long haul. Fancy dinners in restaurants are fine — but not every night for 20, 30 or 50 years. What is an appropriate way to celebrate Valentine’s Day when you reach the life stage where your love is well-worn and abiding, rooted in the familiar, blessed with constancy? How do you celebrate when you are helping your mate manage a ruptured disc or foot surgery, when Lyme disease has dimmed the formerly passionate suitor or prostate cancer has weakened vital organs?
Several years ago I went into the restroom at work and there was a woman I didn’t know but had seen around the building sitting on the couch weeping. When I asked if there was anything I could do she just shook her head no. I brought her in a cup of tea and after a few sips she was able to pull herself together enough to blurt out, “I just miss him so much.”
If you are staying home this Valentine’s Day and you are lucky enough to still have someone to take care of, here is a soup recipe that has significant healing properties. This bowl of comfort is made with Job’s tears, the ripe seed of Coix lachrymal-jobi, a cereal plant native to southeast Asia long eaten to heal painful and stiff joints.
True love endures illness, disappointment, grief and mishaps. Prove your love this Valentine’s Day with comfort food from the heart.
Anne Quinn Corr is the author of “Seasons of Central Pennsylvania, “ of several iBook cookbooks (”Food, Glorious Food!” “What’s Cooking?!” and “Igloo: Recipes to Cure the Winter Blues”) that are available for free on iTunes. She regularly posts to the blog HowToEatAndDrink.com and can be reached at chef firstname.lastname@example.org.
JOB’S TEARS, SMOKED TURKEY AND MUSHROOM SOUP
Makes about 8 quarts, about 20 twelve ounce servings
The smoked turkey used in the soup was from the Spring Mills Saturday market at the Old Gregg School. The Stoltzfus family raises grass-fed turkeys and their products are well worth the drive. Simmering the leg and thigh for an hour produced a lusciously rich broth reminiscent of ham hocks, but lighter in flavor. You won’t be able to resist sucking the last shreds of meat from the bones, which friends did who happened by while this soup was in the works. Job’s tears, also known as Chinese barley, can be purchased in the specialty aisle at upscale grocery stores or at natural food stores, where they are pricey. They can also be found at Asian grocery stores, where they are very inexpensive.
12-16 ounces Job’s tears
water to cover, about 6-8 cups
one smoked turkey thigh and leg (the one I cooked weighed 3 pounds)
one whole, peeled onion, stuck with 8 cloves
one large carrot, cut in half
one rib celery, cut in half
3-4 sprigs of thyme
1-2 fresh bay leaves
parsley stems from one large bunch
1/4 cup olive oil
16 ounces chopped onion (about 2 large onions)
8 ounces chopped celery
8 ounces chopped carrot
2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 cups chopped parsley (the leaves from the stems that made the stock)
Rinse the Job’s tears and cook them in twice their volume of water for about an hour until the grains are swollen and tender. Rinse and cover the smoked turkey leg and thigh with cold water in a 6-8 quart stock pot and bring up to a boil then reduce the heat, skim the surface and add the whole onion and halved carrot and celery along with the thyme, bay leaves and parsley stems. Cook for about an hour or 90 minutes until the meat is falling away from the bone. Meanwhile, in another 6-8 quart stockpot, heat the olive oil and sauté the chopped onion, chopped celery and chopped carrot. Add the mushrooms, which will cook down quite a bit. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper as you cook them. When the stock is ready, strain out the turkey leg and boiled vegetables and add the broth to the sautéed mushroom mixture. Allow the turkey meat to cool and then pull it apart, chop and add to the soup pot. Add the cooked Job’s tears and additional water if necessary. Heat to a boil, turn down the heat and adjust the seasoning. Serve with the chopped parsley as a garnish.
This is a big batch, convenient for sharing with friends by the quart, with a little heart-shaped note that reads, “from your Valentine.”