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Cooking With Myra: Layering of flavors makes recipe, life memorable

Jan. 24, 2011 at midnight
Updated Jan. 24, 2011 at 7:25 p.m.

Spicy Almond Chicken Soup with Sweet Potato, Collards and Ginger

Spicy Almond Chicken Soup with Sweet Potato, Collards and Ginger

By Myra Starkey

I have just completed another weaving project. I am by no means an expert even though I have completed several scarves and a table runner, which started out as a shawl.

The table runner was supposed to be a shawl, but I made it too short, so it ended up as a tabletop decoration for a lack of a better purpose.

I am hooked on weaving because I love the magic of forming fabric out of cottons and wool thread. I love the knobby texture of wool as it is passed through the threads creating a pattern. The act of weaving is almost hypnotic as you pass the shuttle (what the yarn is wrapped on) over and under the warp threads. Warp threads are the threads that run vertically or long-ways and weft threads are the ones that are horizontal or side-to-side. This layering of threads forms a fabric. Weaving is all around us every day; the clothes you are wearing, the blanket that keeps you warm and the curtains that cover your windows. Most of these items are made commercially in factories, but long ago, they were made on looms by ordinary people.

This current hobby sends me to stores in search of yarns. There are amazing colors and textures available to experiment with, and I am on a quest to find interesting weaving yarns. It might seem that most yarn shops would carry the same things, but the more unique ones often have yarns that are handmade in small batches by crafts people. These folks may even be raising and shearing their own sheep and dyeing and spinning their own yarns, so it looks and feels exactly like no other yarn. From various shops, I have accumulated quite a stash since I am also a knitter, but knitting yarns are not always perfect for weaving.

I happened to mention my "yarn collecting" to my sister, Cindy, one afternoon over the Christmas holidays. Cindy has no interest in weaving or knitting. She is a scrapbooker extraordinaire and feels like one hobby is enough. Cindy's mother-in-law, Pat, passed away a couple of years ago, and Cindy was helping to organize some of her stuff when she came across countless bags of yarns and several unfinished knitting projects. I tried to restrain myself from too eagerly inquiring about this treasure. The week after Christmas, Cindy arrived with a car trunk full of bags and balls and skeins of yarn. Several of the bags contained projects still on the knitting needles Pat held not so long ago.

I rummaged through one bag and picked up a set of knitting needles that contained several feet of an unfinished scarf. The yarn was variegated with colors of beige and light cream, almost the color of sand. The scarf needed only about three hours of knitting to be completed, and fortunately, I understood the pattern. I wondered who she had been making it for. I sat down on the couch one afternoon and completed it. I then mailed it to my niece who is this deceased lady's granddaughter. I know that she will cherish it, and I'm sure Pat would have loved for her to have it.

I started a new shawl on my loom last week, and I selected some yarn from Pat's stash. To the untrained eye, it looks just like yarn, but to someone who loves textures and fibers, it is a treasure to behold. The yarn was probably intended for specific projects "when she got around to it," but she died before she was able to craft all of the yarn into functional, handcrafted items to be appreciated by the ones receiving these things.

Life is filled with unfinished acts of kindness. There are many things we want to say to others when the time is right. Perhaps it is a note we intend to write someday to a friend or relative to tell them of something they did that we found meaningful in our life. I can think of several people - as I write this - who really took an interest in me or my children in the past, and the effort they made helped guide us to be better people. I wonder if they know the impact they had?

My life is a fabric, and it is the various yarns of people and experiences that are woven together from side-to-side along the strands of time that have made me what I am. I am complex and unique and frayed and tattered and unfinished.

My friend, Susan, shared a recipe with me last week. Susan had eaten the soup at her friend, Melissa's, house, and she sent me the recipe. Most folks would look at the odd list of ingredients and doubt that they would taste good together.

But sometimes it is the layering of flavors that makes a recipe (or life) memorable. Collard greens add color to the soup, and the sweet potato gives the soup texture and body.

Almond butter makes the soup creamy. You can usually find the almond butter near the peanut butter in the grocery store. I added one chopped jalapeno to the chicken stock for heat. Enjoy.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail



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