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Joni Woolf: A nod to the woman up the hill — who (quite often) feeds me

So far, it’s been one of those weeks: too much to do, too many lists written, edited, re-written; and all of a sudden it’s Ash Wednesday, and if I do nothing else today, I will go to church and be reminded of my sinful (alas) nature. And so I did; met my daughter Carey there — she to go on to the grocery store, and I to work briefly in Calvary Episcopal Church’s Mustard Seed House, our outreach ministry to the community that is open every Saturday, on Brannon Avenue. A busy day for both of us to be sure, but I run out of a steam a bit quicker than she does, so on days like this I delay making supper plans and wait to see what she’s doing about food — that ever-present need that we encounter daily.
She sends a text saying she’s making chicken salad for supper and asks if I’d like some. She knows the answer and shortly she appears with a generous serving of her own recipe — the one we served regularly at CJs in the Maze until a small portion of our public demanded a fancier edition. We obliged and added a salad with grapes and nuts, but at home she has stayed with her very simple, traditional recipe that pleases all of us. It especially pleases me, since she brings it down the hill and into my house, where she stays for a visit and we catch up on the day’s many interesting wrinkles.
Fortunately, I had been in Sweet Georgia Bakery the day before and picked up a loaf of Lee Harris’ focaccia bread. I sliced off enough for my sandwich and gave the rest to her — a small exchange for the wonderful salad. The recipe follows. It’s a bit old-fashioned, except for the food processor. I think you’ll like it.
One whole chicken, with 1 teaspoon salt, covered with water in large pot and cooked till done
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
½ teaspoon celery salt
Black pepper to taste
Duke’s Mayonnaise — enough to hold mixture together
Cool cooked chicken and chop into large pieces, placing in bowl of food processor. Add chopped celery, onions, and seasonings. Add just enough mayonnaise to moisten. Using a food processor heightens the blending of ingredients, resulting in the need for less mayonnaise. Mix 30 seconds and check to see if all ingredients are mixed and moistened. If further mixing seems required, do so in 10 second increments, adding more mayonnaise if necessary.
By the way, save that chicken stock to be used in any number of soups. One of the things we learned while owning CJs in the Maze was how to make many kinds of soup, using the same basic ingredients as starter. We could have probably gotten this from a book, but after a while, it just dawned on us that we were repeating the same steps with several soups: Pour two or three tablespoons of olive oil in large soup pot, heat, add sliced onion (l large) celery (2 stalks) and carrots (2 large) and saute until tender. Add three or four finely chopped garlic cloves and stir for 60 seconds. Add 4 to 6 cups of chicken stock, and from that point on, your only limit is your imagination. This is the basis for collard/black-eyed pea soup, lentil soup, black bean soup, chicken and rice soup, and several others. If you’ve lost your copies of any of these soups, and would like to receive them, you may email me at the address below. Soup is good anytime of the year, and stock that has come from a chicken you’ve just cooked is the very best to use in your favorite soup recipe.
Spring is right around the corner (actually, it appears to be upon us), so watch for news of early vegetables. It won’t be long before markets are teeming with all the season has to offer, so take each stage as it comes, and enjoy the different foods that help make life interesting.
And always, remember to share with others.

-Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net