Cock-A-Leekie Soup

All her life, Mother was taken by certain things. Some times, those things were foreign cultures or peoples and their traditions and ways. Other times, she became entranced by certain words, phrases and even recipes. Once she learned of a new culinary delight, watch out! Her addictive personality would kick into high gear as she would say over and over how delightful the dish was. And then we would be served the wonderful dish repeatedly for days on end.

Cock-a-leekie SoupOne such recipe was for “Cock-A-Leekie” soup. My sister Abby and I would hear Mother in the kitchen talking to herself about how delicious it was and she could hardly wait to get to the store to get the necessary ingredients. She had a way with making it sound like the most delectable soup known to man.

Years later, my sister and I learned that “Cock-A-Leekie” soup is a traditional Scottish recipe. I don’t know to this day whether Mother had gotten to know some Scottish people at some point, or whether it was just all the Scotch she drank, but she got this:

Cock-a-leekie soup is a Scottish soup dish of leeks and chicken stock. The original recipe added prunes during cooking, and traditionalists still garnish with a julienne of prunes. Anne Mulhern of Glasgow’s Willow Tea Rooms suggests that the reason for the addition of prunes dates back to times when only boiling fowls were available and prunes were added to increase the nutritional value of the broth.

While it is called “Scotland’s National Soup,” it likely originated as a chicken and onion soup in France. By the 16th century, it had made its way to Scotland, where the onions were replaced with leeks. The first recipe was printed in 1598, though the name “cock-a-leekie” did not come into use until the 18th century.

Checking Out at WalmartOnce she returned home from the store, she would busy herself in the kitchen whipping up the soup. Now, you have to remember that she often did not have the right ingredients and if she didn’t know or want the items, she would make her own adjustments and substitutions.

Even when she had a recipe listing the ingredients and quantities of each that she would need, somehow on her return from the store, Mother never had everything required. So she would improvise.

That worked well for Julia Child, but did not so much work for Mother. And since she paid little attention to having the correct ingredients, she also adjusted the proper way to cook it.

Once she proclaimed it was time to taste the soup, Abby and I ventured out to the table. We carefully put our spoons into the bowl and tasted her latest concoction. Mother said,

Don’t you just love Cock-A-Leekie soup? Isn’t Cock-A-Leekie soup the best?  Bet you wish you could eat this every day!

Well, the answer to all these questions was a resounding no. It simply had been built up too much in our minds and could never live up to her unending words of praise. She certainly could not have made it correctly because it was just not that good. And, by the time we actually tasted it, we were so tired of hearing about it that we could have cared less.

Spice Spice BabyAnd in fact, due to Mother’s propensity for copious addition of spices to any and every dish she prepared, the end result of every meal was a mixture of fire and pain for our young palates.

Abby and I would have loved a bowl of Campbell’s Chicken and Noodle soup. But our mother did not believe in the simplicity of opening a can and heating it up. She wanted people to think she was too good for that and was a gourmet making everything from scratch.

The truth is if anyone could ruin a can of soup, I am sure she could have. Abby and I love a big pot of homemade soup on a cold winter’s day. However, we always follow the recipe and try not to glorify the dish too much.

Leave a Reply