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Musical pairing – I Won’t Give Up by Jason Mraz
For as long as I can remember, I dreamed of being a singer – on Broadway or as a solo artist, ala Barbra Streisand, my hero at the time. I was singing at 18 months old and had entered my first talent contest at 5 and by High School I ranked 2nd in my State’s Solo and Ensemble competition.
My parents always supported and encouraged my singing but they also insisted I take other courses that would provide the skills to support myself until I was ‘discovered.’ My mother also said I needed marketable skills in the event a husband couldn’t work due to illness or died – then I’d be able to contribute to the family if needed – and she wanted her children to be independent. Secretarial classes were added to algebra, choir, orchestra and home-economics.
Performing was what I thought I was destined to do – all I wanted to do was sing. I entered every competition, volunteered for every solo opportunity available and sang in small groups, quartets, duets, musicals – I just wanted to sing. I guess you could say I was the Glee equivalent of Rachel Berry in my day.
At 16, the same year I placed 2nd in State competition, my choir director announced that I’d better figure out what else I was going to do with my life because I wasn’t going to make it as a singer – I didn’t sight read well and if I was to be a real singer, sight reading was a must. And he wouldn’t promote me to the top choir group, instead relegating me to the lower, ‘all girls’ choir. Less than a year later I was pregnant, then married . . . then a high-school drop-out. Those words were a defining moment and one that completely changed the trajectory of my life.
By the time I was 19, I had two children under the age of 2 and divorced. Any dreams of being a singer were now gone; suddenly, my mother’s words of ‘being able to contribute to the family’ had new meaning. Mom hadn’t mentioned ‘divorce’ but now I was supporting myself and my children with my ‘back up’ skills.
I spent a few years living on a welfare check of less than $300 a month while taking business classes at the local Community College; and I learned how to feed a family of three on $75 a month in food stamps. I was grateful for that home-economics class and for those times I cooked in my mother’s kitchen. We couldn’t eat fast-food as they didn’t take food stamps – eating out was when someone else was paying and for special occasions only – and back-in-the-day, it was cheaper to grow a garden, preserve what we grew and cook from scratch.
Casseroles to stretch the meat, vegetarian chilis, pasta, salads and big pots of soup – these are the dishes I fed my children for many years; I always lived near my parents or family and when our pantry got lean towards the end of the month, we’d be invited over for dinner and sent home with leftovers. I always enjoyed being in the kitchen – creating something delicious with a few simple ingredients.
There’s a bit more money now and I have this wonderful Professor who likes being in the kitchen as much as I do. We cook together almost every night – it might be something fancy or it might be something simple like a hearty casserole, scrambled eggs and toast . . . or a nice big pot of chowder.
And one more thing – The Professor won the Home-Ec Award when he was in Junior-High – yes, I did hit the jackpot.
NOTE: I’m giving approximate measurements here as this is one of those soups you can add a little more or less potatoes, little more or less liquid to get the consistency you like.
Serves 4 – 6
- 2 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 1 small onion, finely chopped (approx ½ cup)
- 6 cups chopped Yukon Gold potatoes, larger bite-size chunks
- 2 cloves garlic, left whole, skins on (you’ll fish them out later)
- 6 cups whole milk
- 1 cup half-and-half
- Chives for garnish
- Salt/pepper to taste
- Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy-bottomed stock pan; add onion, salt, pepper and sauté until onion is translucent – 3-5 minutes
- Add potatoes, milk and garlic; bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cook until potatoes are tender – 20-25 minutes
- Remove garlic cloves and run a potato masher thru the chowder to break up about one-third to one-half of the cooked potatoes (this thickens the chowder without having to add any flour or other thickener)
- Add Half-and-half (more or less to your liking)
- Taste and adjust for seasonings
- Serve topped with chives
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Your potato chowder looks delicious!
I had no idea you were a singer! Love this soup and learning more about your talented self.
Well in addition to being a singer, you are also a great story-teller. I remember those girlhood conversations about having “something to fall back on” too. My, how times have changed since then!
I hope with all my heart that your choir director is reading this. Thank you for sharing your story. You are a success and an inspiration inside and out of the kitchen. Though your singing *career* did not develop as you had hoped, you are still a singer and one day I hope that you have a link to a video of you singing. Our lives rarely unfold as we plan or hope but the paths we take through it lead us to what was meant to be for each of us.
You not only hit the jack-pot with the professor but your kids have gained untold riches by having you as their Mom.
I love potato chowder!! It looks so pretty the way you served it!
I would so love to hear you sing. And share a bowl of this chowder with you. Wow, what a road you’ve traveled.
What a touching story with a sweet ending! And this potato chowder sounds heavenly. Can’t wait to try it. Thanks for sharing!
Oh, girl … you’re totally singing for me next time we see each other. Start warming up now. 😉
I always love hearing about your journey and seeing how much of a survivor and strong woman you are is such an encouragement. xoxoxo
Teachers just never know how their words can Last, for better or for worse… You’re still a singer, even though I’ve never heard you sing. As a matter of fact, you are a Rock Star. 🙂
Debra, this was such a wonderfully honest post. Thank you for sharing this with us. I had no idea that you sang! You know, I sang in choir too (three different groups actually) when I was in high school.
I love rustic recipes like this chowder. Looks so comforting.
I love potato chowder and I love this post. It just reminds me how powerful the words we speak are on those around us.
When I was younger, I wanted to be a marching band director. While my mom didn’t want to shoot me down, she did highly “encourage” me to do something else. So when I enrolled in college, I did both: music, and “something else.”
These days, I don’t make any money playing music. But that’s okay, because I keep it in my life as a “hobby” and “interest.” So it fuels me. I’m willing to bet singing is still an “interest” for you. 🙂
As for the soup, potato chowder is a historical favorite.
Happy Autumn to you and The Professor!
It so nice to see you and the Professor and hear your voice as I read your posts now 😉 But I haven’t heard you sing yet.
What an awesome story, you completely hooked me! I love potato chowder, it reminds me of my childhood, and is still one of my mom’s favorites!