Old turkey soup recipe

This from Jerry Gerardi's Outdoors column in today's Tallahassee Democrat: Weather puts freeze on anglers. Low temps, gusty winds is [sic] making fishing tough.

Jack Wingate at Wingate's Lunker Lodge sends this recipe for leftover turkey soup: "In a boiler of water big enough to cover bones, add one can of tomato sauce, diced or fresh tomatoes, cook until meat falls from bones, take bones out and bring to a rolling boil. Drop in enough regular grits (to make a soupy mixture) and let cook until done. Salt and pepper to taste."
And from the Fishing Update:

Jack Wingate at Wingate's Lunker Lodge (wingateslodge@bellsouth.net, 229-246-0658) on Lake Seminole said the Tallahassee Hawg Hunters fished out of Wingate's. Dallas Johnson won with 17.1 pounds of bass.
Don't know why I read the fishing report today. I rarely look at the sports section at all. Anyway, Dallas Johnson is the husband of my old Extension Services boss, Sarah Johnson, who retired about five years ago. Dallas is retired from the FSU Campus Police. I didn't know Dallas well, but it's good to see that he's enjoying his retirement. Sarah is an accomplished bass fisher herself.

It's the soup I wanted to comment on. It is surely an old recipe, calling for only two ingredients, (besides the turkey bones), that almost any Southern pantry could supply, grits and a can of tomatoes. Now, if you threw your turkey bones in the garbage, you have no right to pass judgement, but it sounds like awful mush, if you try to imagine serving it at home to your family.

But there is a setting in which it would be welcome and very tasty. And that is when you've been out on the water or in a hunting blind since before dawn, and you are frozen through and through. It's mid-to-late morning, and you are ready to head back to camp. You are hungry. You smell it as soon as you come inside, and you want some. It is piping hot, and it goes down just right. And it holds you, too, if you're going back out.

I have not been much of an outdoorsman as an adult, but my father loved to hunt and fish, and he took me with him when I was a boy.

In the winter, shad fish swim up the St. Johns river to spawn. I had heard that they were fished out, but researching this post, I see that shad are still mentioned as fish that you can catch there, so I don't know. Back in the 1960's, the Orlando Sentinel Star used to sponsor a contest in February, in which whoever caught the most shad would win a fishing boat and motor. My dad and I would drive in the dark up to the Lemon Bluff fish camp north of Sanford. We would rent a boat, an aluminum skiff with a motor, and try our luck.

It was cold, people, numbingly cold, out on that river in February. Practically an out-of-body experience. My father was, and has remained, a country boy, for whom a string of fish or a bird was food on the table. I, growing up comfortably in suburban Maitland, and not a "morning person" anyway, could only think, "How did you even know that this was something to do, and knowing that, why would you want to do it?" Now, though, forty years later, I've got a story to tell, don't I?

Although we were never serious contenders for the prized boat & motor, we did catch shad. The shad was not considered a good eating fish. Much of its flesh was dark and bitter, and it had many small bones. What you wanted was the roe from the females; big, sausage-like, membranous sacs of fish-eggs. Fried up in butter, shad roe were heavenly to eat, and wonderful for breakfast with eggs. (Edit: chicken eggs. Weird, eggs with eggs...)

When my father reckoned we had fished long enough, we would return to the fish camp. I remember big jars of pickled things; eggs, pigs' feet, and such. They would always have a big pot of hot chili, and this is what I looked forward to, a bowl of that chili. It was so good. And if they had had Wingate's turkey soup, I know that I would have loved it.


mamapajama said...

Hi, Brett,
This brings back memories! The river was so beautiful..I remember being more interested in pouring sugar packets into the water than fishing (?). The shad roe was kind of weird, but it sure was tasty! This blog sounds like a show on PBS...love it.

Brett said...

Oh, did Dad take you shad fishing too? I didn't know. I've always envied fishermen for the pleasure they get from it. My co-worker, Chris, saves up his annual leave to take long fishing trips a couple of times a year.

Glad you are enjoying the writing. I am having a lot of fun with this!