They had two sons and a daughter, and their daughter, Linda, was my babysitter when I was, well, a baby. I don't remember her sitting for me – I was way too little and she was probably such a constant in my life that she blended in like the rest of the family.
They had a little white dog, some sort of terrier, I think, named Yogi. I remember Yogi had to have some sort of pills, and the pills had to be hidden in some other food or he wouldn't take them. Yogi, if I remember right, had pointy ears and a curly tail like a pig's. That part's probably inaccurate. It was a long time ago. I remember Yogi once nipped my sister's fingers. I think she was reaching through the white picket fence (yes, really, a white picket fence) that separated our yards, and Yogi, like a lot of small dogs, probably felt threatened.
Despite the nip, our families have remained friends to this day.
I mentioned the popsicles because Mrs. Plymesser DID always have popsicles. At least that's how it seemed. And she used to offer us popsicles in the summer if my sister and I were outside when she was, "as long as your mother says it's okay." Well, one day I was hanging out by the fence, chatting my 6 or 7 year old chatter (however old I was – I know I was little) with Mrs. P. I was waiting for her to offer me a popsicle, and since she apparently had forgotten that part of her job, I thought I'd give her a little hint. And so in the very transparent casual manner of a small child who thinks she's subtle, I asked,
"So, how are your popsicles today?"
My mother heard me from inside the house with the windows and doors closed, because suddenly she was outside and just as suddenly I was inside, in the living room, crying and popsicleless. Hinting for food did not meet with her approval.
And today, "how are your popsicles" is one of those family phrases that conjures up childhood and family and summertime and our wonderful neighbors.
I also remember Mrs. Plymesser took a pottery class, or maybe many – I was a kid; I was in my own little world most of the time. But anyway, she made my sister and I each a lovely, squat pitcher in that pottery class. I used mine to hold pencils or paint brushes over the years. I still have it.
I also remember Mr. Plymesser used to love to fish for tautog (blackfish)…and I have wispy memories of him making a lead typeset thing (I don't know what they're called) of my name. It was a piece of metal with the letters of my name sticking out along the bottom. And if I remember correctly, they were backwards, because of how the paper got printed way back when. Sorry this is all so hazy, but like I said before, this was a long time ago.
The Plymessers are some of the handful of people in the universe who may call me "Jaynie." I remember them always smiling. They were more than neighbors. They are family.
When I was engaged to be married, my mother started putting together a cookbook for me. She contacted family on my side and Bill's, on this continent and "across the pond" where we have family in England, and she also talked to family friends who had known me all my life, or even before that.
Of course, there are recipes from the Plymessers.
And this soup, the Portuguese Kale Soup, is one of them.
Bill's been wanting to make a kale soup for ages – it's one of the reasons he planted kale in the garden. And with the season drawing to a close, and the temperatures dropping, now seemed to be the time to make it. So yesterday I went out in the drizzle and wind and cut down the kale, the swiss chard, and some of the remaining pak choi. I needed about 2 lbs of greens, and I had more than enough, even after I got rid of a few really bug-chewed leaves and the heavy stalks.
Before I go on, here's Mrs. Plymesser's recipe, as my mother typed it into my wedding cookbook:
Portuguese Kale Soup
Jean Plymesser says that, if using fresh kale, you should put a little vinegar in the rinse water to kill any little bugs. Rinse kale very well to remove sand, too.
2 lbs fresh kale or 2 pkgs frozen kale
1/2 medium head of cabbage, chopped
3/4-1 lb , cut linguiça into 1/2" slices
2 large potatoes, diced into 1/2" cubes
1 can shell, kidney or lima beans
1/2 stick (4 T) margarine
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt & pepper, to taste
Cut thick stems from kale and then cut up. Rinse very well, as described above. Put kale into a large pot. Add the remaining ingredients and press them down. Add enough water to barely cover. Cover. Bring to a boil then lower heat to a simmer. Cook 1 1/2 to 3 hours.
This soup may be frozen.
Pretty simple, right? Just slice and chop and put everything in a pot with some water.
I rinsed all the greens leaf by leaf by leaf in a big bowl of water. Here's the dirt that got left behind:
While the soup was simmering, I decided to make some rolls. I'd made a double batch of pizza dough the night before, but I only made pizza with about half of the dough, so I thought I'd use up the rest of it rather than making something else. I'd done half whole wheat flour/half all-purpose. I'll post that recipe for you tomorrow.
The soup was great. Bill thought it would be even better using chicken stock in place of the water. But we both agreed that for such a simple soup, the flavor was wonderful.
You could also use chourizo instead of the linguiça, if you wanted a spicier soup. I might try that next time, just for fun.
And since we were strolling down my memory lane earlier in this post, I thought I'd share one more bit from my childhood…
See this picture?
Well, when I was planning the photo, I had the placemat and napkin, the bowl and little plate, bht spoon and knife, but I didn't want to just lay all that on my kitchen counter like I so often do. I took the finished pictures this morning, because the light was better than last night, but still not great due to the clouds and rain. The window above my sink let in really nice Northern light, which I like for my food pictures.
Anyway, I wanted a different surface besides the countertop, but I didn't want to layer placemats or dig out a tablecloth.
So I used this:
It used to be the top of my parents' free-standing dishwasher. Mom used to roll out pie dough on it, or cookie dough. She'd pull it over into the center part of the kitchen area and stand at this work surface with the fridge and stove to her left and the sink to her right. I'd stand on a chair on the other side of the dishwasher, or I'd sit on top of the clothes dryer, which stood beside the washing machine in our kitchen for many years. (You can view a floorplan here, if you'd like.)
When the dishwasher finally needed to be replaced, Dad took the nice, thick wooden top off of it and eventually I ended up with it years later, when I was living on my own, and it's come in quite handy in apartments or houses with limited counter space. I haven't used it much in this house, but now that I've brought it out of retirement, that could change.
Anyway, go on and make up a big pot of this soup. It's easy to put together, and it's hearty and good for you. Perfect for chilly, rainy October nights.