When I think of this soup, I think of being at my grandma’s house and watching her lean over the stove with her walker stirring the soup. I think of the thick plastic covering her wooden kitchen table and her old beautiful brown hands chopping onions at it. I think about after my grandma died, laying on the living room floor as my mom laid on the couch above me and understanding at age 11 that I would never see her again.
She passed on my last day of 5th grade. I had to be picked up early from school that day. The nurse called my mom and my sister showed up to take me home. “What happened?” Wellllllll KARIMA – I was playing kick ball with my “friends” and Frank (the hottest boy in school) kicked the ball straight into my face. I ended up having the beginnings of a black eye and a bloody nose. Obviously, I was the most well liked popular 5th grader and no I did not get beat up by the girl who looked like Sonia from Mortal Kombat nor did I lose a game of “poker” and have a 4th grader shake me down in art class.
That summer, I played with a ouija board with my neighborhood friend Gina. I asked the board about my grandma and I swear I heard her call my name. We threw the board across the room and I think Gina moved away that summer.
Start by roughly chopping 1 white onion and a few cloves of garlic. In a large stock pot, add a bit of oil and sauté your onion and garlic for a few minutes until the onion is a little brown. Add 4 cups of water and 1 can of diced or freshly diced tomatoes in its juices. I wanted to make this soup as “beefy” as possible. Traditionally, caldo is all about the meat but animals are my friends so let’s improvise. I did a bit of research and read a lot of different recipes before I figured out how I wanted to make this.
You may be wondering why the fuck I just put four damn cups of water and virtually no seasoning – I’m getting to that. I had vegetable stock but I didn’t want to use it, I needed something heartier tasting. It’s all about that broth, you know? I had better than chicken liquid bouillon but I’m trying to mimic beef, so here it goes. I ended up finding one better than beef bouillon cube hidden in my cabinet but that wasn’t enough, so I mixed some shit together after reading up. I added the bouillon cube to my water-onion-garlic along with a little cumin and chili powder, cooking it a little longer. After a couple minutes, I spooned a couple cups of water out of the pot and added it to a mixing bowl with a couple more cups of water (4 c total now). Next, I added a handful of nutritional yeast, around 2-3 tablespoons of vegan Worcester sauce, a couple tablespoons of onion powder, 1 tablespoon of garlic powder, a little ground ginger, a little braggs liquid aminos, fresh ground pepper and salt to taste. I mixed and added it back into my stock pot then mixed again. To me, this now tasted what I remember beef broth tasting and looking like – sort of a clear brownish color, salty but not too salty and “hearty”. Fuck yeah!
Now that I got my broth tasting right, I add 2 chopped carrots and 1 large potato peeled and cubed cooking until *almost almost* tender then I added 2 ears of cleaned corn cut in half and 2 chopped or quartered chayotes (it’s a squash – google that shit). Cook about 10 or so minutes then add 1/2 of a head of cabbage quartered. Make sure to really push the cabbage into the broth so it cooks. I put the lid to my stock pot on for a couple minutes to really make sure that shit cooked down. Do not over cook the cabbage and chayotes unless you’re into mushyyyyy. There’s a difference between tender and mush, remember that!
Uncover and add a handful of cilantro and a sprinkle of Mexican oregano. This step is optional really, but I fuck with all the spices if you can’t tell yet. You can give the soup a couple of swirls and you’re done OR you can add a meat substitute like I did.
I wanted a sub that resembled the consistency that meat on a bone would have. I didn’t want tofu or tempeh. I tried fucking with TVP but decided against it. I didn’t have any seitan. What the fuuuuuck to do? Theeeeeen I remembered that I had Gardein meatloaf in the freezer and thought it would be the perfect texture! Normally, I would try to be more creative than using a prepackaged item like this but when it works, it works. So yeah, I cut into chunks, cooked in a fry pan then added that in.
Serve with fresh jalapeños, more cilantro, diced raw onion and of course LIME AND CORN TORTILLAS. I swear to fucking fuck if you follow any directions from this, it is to squeeze lime into your bowl of soup and dip your goddamn tortilla. Eat on a cold rainy day while listening to Brazil’s Rakta.