I was an adult before I had ever heard of or tried Chicken Tortilla Soup. The only time my mother ever served me soup was when I was sick. Even then she would usually warm up a can of Campbell’s Chicken & Stars. (Chili and stew don’t count – Momma rocked those!)
I once got food poisoning from old broccoli and cheese soup at a Black Eyed Pea Restaurant and I refused to eat it again for thirteen years. True story. Ever since, I always choose salad over soup at a restaurant. But Chicken Tortilla Soup is good – I mean really good. So about eight years ago, I decided to make it for the first time. My kids loved it! In fact, my oldest loved it so much, she wouldn’t stop eating it. I think she had nine large servings before she finally threw up un-digested chicken tortilla soup all over my kitchen floor. She begged me to never make it again and after the great broccoli and cheese incident of ’91, I was happy to oblige. We were kindred. Soup had scarred us both.
Now that it’s November in Texas, the temperature has dropped below 100 degrees. ‘Round these parts, that means soup! (Or chili – whatever.) Last night I decided to make it again. I also made a very small pot of vegan tortilla soup for Parker (recipe below.) My house smelled of garlic, cumin, and lime. The cilantro, avocado, and sour cream were fresh. I couldn’t find the cheese grater so I used dental floss to finely slice the block of cheddar. I still don’t know where that grater is.
Our front door was open, letting in the cool autumn breeze (and possibly airing out the kitchen after I burned the first round of tortilla strips in oil.) I was just about to scald my tongue when I heard a woman’s voice saying, “knock, knock” from the open door. It was our friend, Ally! She stopped by to drop off gifts for Olive. We exchanged pleasantries, chatted about her parents, and she was on her way. I finally took my first bite and it was awesome.
After some silence, I asked my husband if his mom made Chicken Tortilla Soup when he was growing up. He gave me “the look” which means, “Are you serious?” (Some people that know him interpret it as, “Are you fucking stupid?” There’s a fine line.
“Chicken Tortilla Soup isn’t a real thing, baby.”
Not real? It looked real. It smelled real. It tasted real. The jalapenos and green chilis were really making my forehead sweat. It took a really long time to make and real dollars to pay for the real ingredients. Was this somehow the Emperor’s New Soup?
“It’s just a made up thing,” he explained.
Well, of course it is made up. At some point, some person threw all the ingredients (whatever they had in the fridge, most likely) in a big pot, added some spices, and called it Chicken Tortilla Soup. It’s not like there is some natural body of soup out there that we can just take soup from…
– Split Pea Springs
– River of Creamy Potato
– The Egg Drop Ocean
– Lake Lentil
I understood what he was trying to say, though. He meant that it wasn’t a traditional Mexican dish. His mother made caldo; trendy restaurants made Chicken Tortilla Soup. I didn’t know that. My mother’s dinners were mostly spaghetti, tacos, meatloaf, BBQ, burgers, and her signature dish – pork chops, ranch style beans, and mac & cheese. It’s not like I grew up eating diverse foods, unless we were at a restaurant. (My first experience with curry was revolting.)
My Vegan Tortilla Soup is, in fact, made up. By me. Last night. Hope you enjoy!
3 cups vegetable broth
1/3 can of green chiles & tomatoes (I used Ro-tel)
1/3 can of sweet kernel corn (rinsed and drained)
1/3 can whole black beans (also rinsed and drained)
1/4 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced onion
cilantro, avocado, lime, garlic, cumin, and cayenne pepper to taste
Pour vegetable broth, Ro-tel, corn, and black beans in a small pot over medium heat. Add tofu chunks (optional.) Sprinkle cumin and cayenne pepper to your preferences. In a separate pan heat olive oil until it simmers. Add celery, onion, and garlic and saute until tender. Add contents of pan to pot. Voila!
Serve with fresh avocado chunks, chopped cilantro, fried tortilla strips, and a squeeze of lime!