This week our motoring columnist Brain McDaid takes an off-peak journey in his weekly column, discussing soup in all its glory.
Some say it’s the pot its made in, some say it’s the stove, one thing that’s common in all soups made in a home is it brings back memories of a time past, company enjoyed with people that are no longer with us, its soup can bring them back in memory.
On the run into Christmas people will travel home to be together over the Christmas time, They will try and do all the things they need to do which will make it look as if they are having the perfect Christmas.
Three wise women
In the perfect Christmas Story, three wise men brought gifts to the manger for the birth of Christ. In real life around Christmas for us as children, it was three wise women in our aunts, Sadie McDaid, Jenny Mc Laughlin, and Bida Deeney and their homes that we traveled to at Christmas as they shared the food from their table with us to give us some sort of a normal life. They all made great soups, which we enjoyed all year round, but particularly on cold dark wet winter weather.
Jenny’s soup was the same soup as we got in our granny’s in Pluck years before which my father loved. Jenny’s soup was as good as dinner full of vegetables, barley, and lentils. She would even give us a big pot to take home from Glenkerragh, which would be gone in no time. That was followed by her trifle, which she started off making in a big dish that over the years evolved into a plastic basin, such was the demand for it.
Sadie lived just three doors across from us in Wolfe Tone Place, so many the day she called us in from the green along with her own wanes and she would have made enough soup for two families and maybe a few spuds in it which brought silence to a table except for the odd slurp followed by a giggling as we cleaned everything off the kitchen table.
Saddie also was one of the best makers of soda and treacle bread hot out of her Stanley Range and real butter homemade rhubarb and a big striped mug of hot tea.
Every Thursday as children our dinner table could be found after a short journey down the hill from school to Antie B’s on the back road.
Even on the wettest coldest day it seemed better going down to the smell of a meatloaf and soup meeting you at the back door than going home to an empty house.
Bida had the kitchen table set for four of us. On the menu was a starter of soup, and a beautiful homemade meatloaf, with trimmings of table manners and religion.
White handle butter knives were good craic and many the tomato skated off the plate from a summer’s salad until we realised we were using the knives upside down, much to the amusement of our uncle Miah.
The soup in Bida ’s also was homemade and beautiful, but different. For years we enjoyed as children every Thursday and assumed that Bida made this soup and only in later years realized it was Miah that made it for us.
As years went on and we grew up the routine of calling at houses faded away. And then one day sitting in Macs Mace a bowl of soup transported me right back to my childhood.
I might as well have been on the other side of the world and heard a song on the radio that brings you back to a time and a place in your life.
I asked Eunan Mac where did you get the recipe for that soup? ‘Why?’ – was the reply from a worried owner. I explained how it brought back memories of a soup my uncle Miah made and a bit of local knowledge.
Eunan relaxed as he introduced me to his cook at the time who was a niece of my uncle-in-law Miah Deeney, Sarah Gallagher (Nee Deeney) wouldn’t give me the recipe, but it gave me the background why her soup and her uncle soup tasted the same.
The story of Miah Deeney’s soup starts at Number 8 McClures Terrace, just off the High Rd in Letterkenny – a generation before him.
His soup and the soup his niece Sarah (called after her Granny) made was one of the same originally made by Jimmy Deeney, Miah’s father who taught all his children (all boys) to make soup for themselves.
Miah’s mother Sarah passed away the day Miah was born, so the Deeney’s boys were minus their mother from a very young age.
Jimmy Deeney would light the stove on the night before to have soup ready for the boys to reheat the next day.
He would leave early and get another fire powered up also on Number 8, a Hudwell Clarke Steam Engine which was just one of the trains he drove for Lough Swilly Railway on the 73 3/4 mile journey from Derry to Burtonport.
Miah recalled as a child moving for short periods of time to the end of the line at Burntonport so his father would be on hand to drive the train to transport the big catches of fish into Derry.
You could say that Deeney’s Soup traveled well even though it didn’t leave Donegal. Miah did pass on me his recipe and the odd time even for the purpose of this write up gathered up the few ingredients that go into this vegetable soup. Miah would have been 100 shortly if he still was about.
His soup lives on and like another soup make the same way, time after time in a home which fills a hungry child and years on top up the memories of years gone by.
By the way, if you are dusting down an old recipe, remember to stir the pot especially when reheating as it will stick to the bottom, I know, I’ve been there. Then your soup will take on a different taste than that of a burnt one.
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