Chicken soup and Kamchatka

Posted on March 7, 2012


Last week I called Cora Stoppert to see how she was doing.  I asked if I could bring her some chicken soup for supper.  Well, she said, I’ll be fine, don’t bother.  Hmm.  I got on my skates and went to the Eastport Market.  I came back without any of the things I went for and scrounged around in the pantry for inspiration.  The phone rang.  It was Cora.  Come on down, she said.  She’d been scrounging around in her pantry and we could have omelets and some of Steve’s bread and – I could swear she said Kamchatka, but that couldn’t be.  Anyway, off I went.  Cora’s pantry contains better inspirations than mine.

She hauled out these eggs.  They were itty bitty eggs from some kind of itty bitty chicken whose name she couldn’t remember.  Cora gets out and about a good deal and knows an amazing variety of people, including some who raise unusual chickens.  I put in a regular egg for scale.

She hauled out ham and tomatoes and green onions and mushrooms and I diced and diced.  She hauled out Steve’s homemade bread and I sliced and sliced.  (Steve is Cora’s excellent son.  Whenever he comes to visit her he brings quantities of provisions and cooks up a storm and does a million chores.)

Then Cora hauled out the “Kamchatka.”  Kombucha, that’s what it was.  I had heard the word, but I’d never had the stuff before.  This is another thing Steve got her into.  You probably know all this, but I didn’t.  It’s fermented tea.  One starts with a mother, as in a mother of vinegar.  The mother is a sort of gelatinous disk of, well, microbes.  (Really everything fermented goes through an unlovely adolescence.  You just have to accept that about it if you want to enjoy it in its maturity.  Not unlike sons.)  Here is Cora’s big jug of fermenting tea with the mother floating in it.  When it’s ready, she bottles it in recycled Grolsch bottles.

I’ve been all over the internet looking at this, and I decided I won’t give you any links.  Depending on whom you believe, the stuff will make you a better person or it will kill you.  I leave you to your own devices.  This is a glass of Cora’s Kombucha with little bits of ginger in it.  It was tasty, like a cross between cider and ginger beer.

While I was sampling the Kombucha Cora made the omelets.  My sole contribution was the slicing and dicing.

While we were eating the omelets she brought out some molasses and urged me to try it on the bread.  She explained its virtues at length.

Cora is a food snob with roots in Nova Scotia.  She has absolutely convinced me of the superiority of Nova Scotian codfish.  Naturally I inspected the molasses and tried a bit on a bite of bread.  I have to say it was very good molasses.

So there we were, sipping our Kombucha and meandering about in a conversation about food and the wonderfulness of sons and the vagaries of weather and the next thing you know it was midnight.  I did the dishes and went home thinking about how there are all sorts of ways to bring someone chicken soup and all sorts of people who might need some chicken soup.  On this particular evening itty-bitty chicken eggs and a microbial mother were just the ticket for Cora and me.  No accounting for tastes.