Comfort foods and family tradition meals have the most wonderful way of centering us, reminding us of continuities in life, and even strengthening us to go back into the foray. I can go through the motions of an activity I did as a child or eat a meal that was a favorite when I was a teenager, and all the endorphins rush through me again and my mind and heart is filled with comforting memories. These connections from the past to the present and going forward into the future are so important to building and maintaining the family connections.
And so, our family has peanut soup every Thanksgiving. It’s a funny tradition really. It’s an acquired taste. Not everybody loves it. Sometimes it turns out better than others. But it’s part of our family history and it continues to bind us together. Doug and I had a couple of favorite restaurants when we were in college in Williamsburg, Virginia. Peanut soup was always on the menu. It was comforting, inexpensive, filling and always associated with the history we were living right in the middle of, which seemed to make it taste just perfect. And, to boot, my mother’s elderly friend had given me her personal copy of original recipes from the Colonial Williamsburg “taverns” which included the inimitable peanut soup.
The first year we were married, the extended family gave me the honor of hosting Thanksgiving at our little ranch house in Middleburg, Virginia. That was the first time I served peanut soup as part of Thanksgiving dinner. I am not a great cook, but it managed to come out perfectly, everyone enjoyed it, and it became the link from past to present to future.
We are gathering this Thanksgiving from four states. Half of my children are adults now, moving into new and exciting stages of life. We have so much to catch up on and share with each other. To start things off, when we sit down for dinner, we will have peanut soup.
The first time I made this, I used the recipe directly from my mother’s friend’s cookbook. But it didn’t taste exactly as Doug and I remembered from Colonial Williamsburg, so I tracked down the chef from our favorite tavern and showed him the recipe. He generously made a few adjustments for me, and the result was fabulous! It’s amazing what a few tweaks will do! So, here is one of our favorites, and a very special component of our family Thanksgiving.
Peanut Soup (makes 10-12 servings)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 quarts chicken stock or canned broth
1 cup natural peanut butter
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups chopped peanuts
Salute the onion and peanuts in butter until soft, but not brown. Add cream and bring to a soft boil. Stir in flour until well blended. Add chicken stock or broth and salt, stirring constantly, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and rub through a sieve. (I have never used a sieve. For years, I cooled the soup and put it in a blender, but now just use my emersion blender while everything is still in the pot.) Add peanut butter, stirring to blend thoroughly, almost boil. Return to low heat, but do not boil. Serve hot or cold, garnish with chopped peanuts. (P.S. It tastes best when made the day before and then warmed up right before serving.)