Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Dad, a Cop and Tortilla Soup

Jalapenos are the Thugs of the vegetable kingdom.
They respect no turf. They will mug you in the taqueria, at the ball park and even at your own dinner table. And those pickled pepper bad boys seek no reform; their pastime pleasure is to pass pain to your palette. And that they do well.
When my own children were young and we visited my parents for a meal, my father used to offer them a dollar for each jalapeno they’d eat. Tradition. He had done that with me as a child, too. He lost a couple of dollars over the years, but neither I nor my girls ever got rich.

So you see, even the thuggy Jalapeno has a good side. This spicy pepper is actually capable of something amazing. The jalapeno can connect people.

Darryl was a Technical Engineer. Like many, he had a demanding job. Long hours that often had him leaving and coming home in the dark. Not seeing his family was the hardest part. During the work week, he was lucky to get in a half hour with his two sons before bedtime. An ache, familiar to so many fathers gnawed inside him; the pang of seeing time pass before his eyes as he watched his boys grow ever so quickly.

So it was when his youngest son was 7 years old, that they sat across from each other and discovered something that would connect the fabric of their lives; their love for the bite of the spicy jalapeno. It started with salsa; just a friendly father and son competition. Who could load the tortilla chip with the most salsa? Who could eat through the range of colorful salsa choices at the salsa bar? As the little boy grew, he and dad would eat those pickled peppers one after another. Sweat beading on their foreheads, nostrils running; neither crying “uncle”. Mom joined in and drew up a recipe for Tortilla Soup that had just the right spicy jalapeno kick that would make it a family favorite for years.

That little boy grew up and became a cop. While you and I slept during the dark night hours, this officer patrolled the streets. To stay awake, he’d pull into a 7-11 store and buy a few pickled jalapeños. Sitting in his patrol car he’d take a bite out of the biggest one and WOWEE!! He’d be wide awake. Jalapenos: part of our crime prevention team.

Today, Darryl is a cancer survivor. He can’t eat a litany of foods for medical reasons; including jalapenos. Doctor’s orders. His son the cop is my friend. He is a father himself, coaching soccer, playing music, making art and much more and uses all these venues to connect to his children. His wife has taken over his mother’s tortilla soup recipe and it is a family favorite.
And the cop’s son? He loves that piquant, pickled pepper.
Just like dad.
Yes, jalapeños still connect.
Oh, should you ever find your mouth in the middle of a pepper firestorm; do NOT drink water.
All that does is spread the love around.

Now go explore!

Chicken Tortilla Soup (Mimi’s Style)
6 corn tortillas
2 Tbls vegetable oil
1 small onion chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 can chicken broth, undiluted
1 can beef broth, undiluted
1 can cream of chicken soup (Swanson’s was the family favorite)
1/4 chopped fresh jalapeno peppers
3/4 cup chopped cooked chicken breast meat
1 ½ cups of water
1 Tbls steak sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp pepper
2 tsp Worcestershire
1 tsp. chili powder
3 cups grated cheddar cheese

Cut tortillas into strips, set aside. Sauté onion & garlic in vegetable oil. Add remaining ingredients except cheese and tortillas. Bring to a boil. Cover. Simmer one hour, stirring occasionally. Add tortillas and cheese. Simmer uncovered 10 minutes.
Makes 8 cups.


Ce. said...

Hey you!!!
What a nice blog you have!!! ;)
Thanks for visiting mine, and also thanks for your kind words :)
I haven't try jalapeños yet ... maybe someday!
I love food!!! I'am from Perú and our food is awesome! Have you tried it?
Well I hope we can stay in touch!!

Amy said...

A wonderful story and a great recipe -- thank you for sharing.

Ang @ Mind Over Batter said...

What a lovely story! I love, love, love jalapeños! Such a great recipe for tortilla soup - Thanks for sharing!

Ruth Rivera said...

soup sounds delicious..

Boulder Locavore said...

Hi Mario! Thanks for the invite on Foodbuzz to come read your blog. I did and now am. Love the lineage of jalapenos in your post. Heart warming (and 'mouth warming' for the consumers I'm sure). You have a wonderful way with words and convey a warmth with your blog. So good to meet you. Please pop over to visit me too!

Anonymous said...

This is such a touching story. Food is the deepest connection, I feel.
It is one of the many things my mama and I connect with. She cooks and I bake.
The soup sounds wonderful by the way. My family and I are big fans of spicy foods!


Catherine said...

Dear Mario, There are few things in life that connect us and jar the memory the way a particular food can.
I am a fan of spicy foods..lovely story of tradition passed on...Blessings, Catherine

Beta. said...

Hi Mario! I'm happy, because you like my text :)
My english is very very bad, sorry :S
The text that you read, it's a history that I imagine o think and I wrote and public in the blog.But it isn't real.
Your blog is good, and I like.

Evanir said...

È com muito carinho que
venho convidar você para
festinha de 5 anos do
Fonte de Amor.
Por favor leia a postagem
e vera onde sera a festa .
e pegar o convite na postagem.
O presente do Fonte também
beijos carinhos,Evanir.
È um prazer estar aqui seguindo seu bélissimo site.

LUCIA said...


Dhemz said...

thanks for sharing...what a wonderful story....:) and thanks for sharing the recipe....:)

got your link from my photobucket account...thanks for leaving a comment.

following your blog.

Araceli León Rodríguez said...

hola: Mario me gusto tu blog,me hice tu seguidora,besos y abrazos.

riza said...

Hi thanks for visiting my blog! It was a nice read. Sadly i have low tolerance for spicy dishes but im trying to eat spicier stuffs these days..^_^

Our Eyes Eat First said...

thank you mario for the kind words! your blog is pretty great itself : j i love those thuggy jalapenos too! thanks for sharing

Claudia said...

A wonderful story!

I wish you all the best from Romania.

Brigita T Alvarado Photography said...

Hi Mario
first Thank You Mario for your visit and kind words. Slovenia is amazing but I love California too. Not sure I had that chocolate yet but will look around now that I got your recomandation. have a great day Mario.
About jalapenos - not sure I would do is as a kid for a dollar. But what a story - love it. Connection can be build on so many things

Ellen said...

Hi Mario!

Thanks for dropping by and leaving some comment. :) I like this post! but what can you recommend to someone like me who has an allergy eating chicken. :| I always pork, beef and fish. :)

happy weekend! :)

Isabel said...

Fantástico Mario!!!
Por aquí me quedo.
Hablas un español excelente!!!!

Rick said...

Nice soup!

Victoria said...

Thanks for sharing that story about your friend's dad Darrell. I like spicy, but can never eat a jalapeno on its own, haha. It's true that the love of foods in general, and in this particular case, one with a particularly devoted following, can really bring people together.

Indian food recipes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maria De'Assis said...

Lovely Blog :D


nUmara... said...

wow! hehe...
cooking is my interest, but not much time to cook... evn to buy cooking ingredients.. h0h0..
good luck may ur cook will produce superb foodssss... :)

Anonymous said...

Ciao Mario,buona domenica!!!!!:-))
Come stai???
Siete tutti bene in famiglia??
Mi auguro di si,grazie per il tuo commento sul mio blog e sempre tanti complimenti per i tuoi interessantissimi post..c'è sempre da imparare,grazie..;-)
Un abbraccio a presto*

Jocie's Mom said...

Ace story, brilliant recipe. Thanks for sharing! :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your visit and your comment. You have a really nice blog.
Whenever you need italian tuscan recipies just ask :-P

Jool said...

Hello Mario! :) you're the best! :) I always like your posts :) and besides making a dish for Darryl who is a cancer survivor is for the win! :)

Have a great day! :) Take Care!~

Unknown said...

what a great way to write about food and tell a personal story! Being interested in psychology as well I think your blog is a perfect mix of humanity and food! Thanks for your follow as well and I look forward to your next posts!

Allysia said...

I definitely couldn't help but laugh at your description of jalapenos being thugs! And the rest of the story was fun too :)

Araceli León Rodríguez said...

creo que el fin de semana le hare a mi familia una deliciosa sopa de tortilla,acompañada de un gran recipiente lleno de guacamole,y pues mario a tu salud,me chupare los dedos ,ya lo creo que si,gracias Mario por la receta.

Jenné @ Sweet Potato Soul said...

Hi Mario,
Thanks for the Foodbuzz request. I love your beautiful stories and recipes. I'll certainly be visiting often!
Jenné @ Sweet Potato Soul

GmiK said...

Hello Mario, i'm soy happy!!!your blog and your stories and recipes are fantastic. Thanks for your follow!!!!

Out of the Kitchen said...

Hi Mario! Love the blog and the stories. Isn't amazing how most things relate back to food? We will be visiting the site often.

Fedra said...

Hey there, MARIO!
I read your comment on my old blog on splinder (
Now I have a new blog, you can follow me if you want to read me!

thanks A LOT for your comment, it was a pleasure to me reading it!
Have a nice time.


Anonymous said...

This is a really nice story. Reminds me of my childhood. My dad would always try to convince me to eat his pickled banana peppers by telling me they were sweet. When I finally tried one my face turned bright red and I probably drank a gallon of water. I rarely trusted his definition of sweet after that.

Thanks for stopping by munchin with munchkin! Cheers

Anna's kitchen table said...

Oh my Giddy Aunt! I love, love, love your writing!
Emotive writing AND great food? What's not to love?
I'll be back. Often. And become a follower. I have coverted. Thank you.

Marilù said...

Ciao Mario, finalmente riesco a venire a fare una visita al tuo blog!!!
Complimenti per tutte le ricette che hai pubblicato!!!
Ti auguro di passare un buon weekend e a presto!!!
Saluti dall'Italia!

misa said...

Hi Mario,
Thank you so much for your kind comment on my blog! Yeah, very sad happened in my country, I'm praying for Japan.
By the way, I love your blog Mario, very warm and makes me smile. I bookmarked, and will visit soon!!

Kelly-Ann Maddox said...

:) I really love the writing style and the concept. I think it's probably time you got snapped up by a magazine!

lola said...

Hola Mario, veo que todos los comentarios son de mujeres. Se nota que las que cocinamos casi siempre somos las mujeres. Intentaré hacer este plato. Aunque si es muy picante tendré que tomar ésta comida con una buena copa de vino.

Kelly-Ann Maddox said...

Hi Mario :) Thanks for your compliments on my writing, it's much appreciated. Although I can't take credit for a lot of the photography used - it comes from other sources online. ;) For a long time I wasn't sure if I wanted to put quality essays on the internet, I didn't see it as a real, viable platform for serious work but I couldn't have been more wrong. It's like self-publishing in an online magazine where you're the editor-in-chief making all the decisions and your audience also becomes your community - what could be better?

Following you now :)

Unknown said...

Love the concept. Beautiful story, delicious food. Well done :)

Jessica | Cajunlicious said...

Mario, I love tortilla soup and can't wait to try yours out!

Beth Michelle said...

What a great story! I love jalapenos! The spicier the better. The tortilla soup sounds pretty good too!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A nice post and wonderful story! That tortilla soup sounds great.



liz said...

such a sweet story! ive always liked spicy foods, but living with a texan roommate has introduced me to japalenos. i love tortilla soup so the addition of peppers i assume makes it even better!

Megan @ Marthon Diaries said...

thanks for visiting my blog mario! I LOVE jalapenos! this looks amazing going to add this for after a nice run! definetly going to add this one to my blog roll for runner's to check out!

Linda said...

Very nice story. Poignant. I agree, food connects people. Not jalapenos for us, though! And when it comes to hot stuff, I make sure we have lots of bread around. This soup sounds amazing, even more so knowing the story behind it.


Thank you for visiting my blog, which brings me to yours.. and well i'm glad I did come in and visit!
I love the stories, the style and the content... your food are varied and are very interesting.

here's to knowing you more through your stories and through your food. Thanks for inviting me over!