Soup Secrets From Betty Spierling

Need a tasty hot soup for a cold winter day? Try one of these delicious options from soup master Betty Spierling!

| December 1991/January 1992

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    The soup masters of Nub's Nob (from left); Betty Spierling and Pauline Steele stir up a pot of hearty fare.

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Growing up in Harbor Springs, Mich. (a small town on Lake Michigan and a Petoskey stone’s throw from the Mackinaw Bridge and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula), there were only so many things to do on the typically 15 degrees Fahrenheit winter days, and all of them involved snow. So, bright and early at 7:30 a.m. each Saturday and Sunday morning, my dad would haul us five kids out of bed, stuff us with amounts of pancakes and sausage he believed would keep us from freezing to death, conduct a hat-and-mitten check, and pack all of us in the van for the 10 minute ride to Nub's Nob.

Nub's is a ski mountain (my Colorado friends laugh at this description and draw an analogy to the expression “making a mountain out of a molehill"), but to us kids, it was a winter wonderland. Each of us would pair off or ski alone for most of the morning. My two older brothers would break the speed record for schussing the black diamonds, while my older sisters alternated stylishly-skied runs while flirting in the lift line. Me, well, I was stuck with wearing a garish blue-and-white checkered snowsuit, which assured my father — from any chair lift on the hill — of a quick spot-check as to my whereabouts and state of physical being.

But promptly at 1 p.m., we'd all stash our skis, loosen our boots and stomp into the cafeteria. It was time for lunch.

Looking back, it's hard to explain what was so magical about sloppy joes, burgers, fresh cookies and pies and those black tureens filled with soul-satisfying soup.

But to a semi-frozen, drippy-nosed five-year-old, it was the food of the gods. And despite my consumption of roughly 350 sloppy joes with onions and umpteen slices of Marvel's marvelous pecan pie, it was the soups that stuck to my ribs then and stick in my mind now: chicken noodle with noodles so egg-rich and chewy you could make a meal out of them...creamy cream of tomato that deftly avoided the trap of tasting like watered down ketchup...beef barley rich with meat and tender grains.

While the ladle got passed once or twice since my early days, I'm happy to report that the same wonderful soups are still being created today, by sisters Betty Spierling and Pauline Steele. And I'm also happy to report that, after years of prodding and some heavy persuasion, Betty has decided to share her soup secrets and favorite recipes with MOTHER's readers.

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