Every spring, my parents make their annual trek from their winter home in Naples, FL to their summer home in Kansas City. Along the winding Amtrak railways, they make a stop first in Charleston to visit me for about a week, and then head up to Boston to do the same with my twin sister, Heather. It's a family tradition that always includes lots of laughs, a few tears, lots of delicious food, lots of wine, lots of long walks, and countless hands of Hearts.
Mom and Dad, affectionately known as Hen and Herb, completed the Charleston leg of their journey two days ago. All the usual suspects were at play, including lunch at two of my mother's favorite restaurants, Hominy Grill and Magnolias. And, even though she is loathe to deviate from her preferred Charleston restaurant path, Hen (and less reluctantly, Herb) agreed to try some of my newer favorites, including Zen Asian Fusion and Martha Lou's Kitchen. Of course, there were many meals at my kitchen table, which Hen and Herb, sweetly, declared "the best of all."
Hen and Herb enjoying lunch in my kitchen with my sweet, hungry dog Tann Mann.
But, there was a new, sad element at play on this occasion. It was evident in my Dad's and dog's slowing gaits, my Mother's increased nap time, and my own aching shoulder. It was even more evident in conversations, many heavily peppered with memories of those long past, like my Nanna, and those of recent passing, like several of Hen and Herb's friends. But, it was most evident to me as I sat with my father at a Riverdogs game and watched my nearly 80 year-old father beam with the joy of the small boy he was almost as many years ago when he met his idol, Babe Ruth, and began a lifelong love of baseball. He loved explaining the game to me, and even as he did, I realized with powerful clarity that I wouldn't always have my Dad or Mom. Tears seeped from my eyes as he described the job of "the closer," even as I squeezed my Mom's hand that much tighter during the fireworks she so loves.
Of course, I've always known we won't always be together in this life, but it really hit home on this trip. Father Time is catching up with all of us. All the more reason to appreciate what we have while we have it, and boy, do I. The house has been painfully silent the last few days as I've relived the many memories of this past visit, both while waking and in dreams. Reality struck this morning, again, when I finally decided to get on the scale after all of that indulgence. The numbers told a cruel, three-pound weight gain story.
Small matter, nothing that salads and lots of veggies won't cure. The recipe that follows is one of my favorites from Southern Farmers Market Cookbook that is the perfect seasonal ticket for light and delicious eating, using two of spring's sweetest, onions and fresh, creamy turnips, one of my Nanna's favorites. Both elegant and simple, it's perfect for early spring entertaining. And, it's so healthy, it will help stave off Father Time and create memories to last a life time, like my past week with Hen and Herb.
Creamy White Turnip Soup with Spring Onions and Roasted Garlic. Photo by Rick McKee
Creamy White Turnip Soup with Spring Onions and Roasted Garlic
(Serves 4 to 6)
1 head roasted garlic
1 bunch (about 4 cups) white turnips, peeled (outer layer discarded), and cut into 2-inch cubes
1 medium spring onion, root and green top trimmed to 1-inch lengths from the bulb and cut into 8 wedges
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 slices prosciutto, cut into thin strips and 1-inch lengths
1/4 cup creme fraiche or whole cream
Green onion tops to garnish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Trim the top of the garlic and wrap with foil. Place in the middle of the oven and roast until soft to the touch, about 30 to 45 minutes. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze out the soft pulp by pressing the blade of a chef's knife against the bulb to release the roasted flesh; discard the papery casing.
Place the garlic, turnips, onions, and chicken stock in a large saucepan. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, until the turnips are tender, about 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from the stove and puree until smooth with a handheld blender or food processor. Return the soup to the pan. Add the nutmeg, prosciutto, and creme fraiche. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring to blend. Taste and adjust seasonings as required. Garnish with a sprinkling of freshly chopped green onions and serve immediately.
Note: This soup can be prepared in advance and frozen or stored in the refrigerator. However, if you plan to do so, add the cream just before serving, not before storing.