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Wild rice adds comfort, crunch to winter soup

January 28, 2007|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - The soup was both crunchy and creamy.

Milk and cheese made it rich, creamy and smooth. Then comes wild rice and the garnish of crumbled bacon, which made it delightfully crunchy.

"I absolutely love wild rice," said Loretta Homan as she stirred a pot of wild rice for soup in her Shepherds-town home.

Wild rice is the official grain of Minnesota, where Homan found her wild rice soup recipe.

According to Minnesota's official state Web site, wild rice is really an aquatic grass and is not related to common rice, the softer variety most people are used to.

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Grains of wild rice resemble long, brown pine needles. It grows naturally in shallow waters and lakes of central and northern Minnesota. Native Americans used to harvest wild rice from those lakes.

Homan's wild soup recipe comes courtesy of her sister-in-law, Jean Hoss, who used to live in Minnesota. Hoss now lives in Florida but visits Shepherdstown occasionally.

"I have friends who send me rice from Minnesota," said Homan, 69, as she held up a bag of wild rice.

Homan, a retired home economics teacher, likes to pair wild rice soup with chicken. But the soup is often hearty enough to stand on its own. Part of the appeal of using wild rice as an ingredient, Homan said, is its crunchiness. In boxes of store-bought wild rice, common rice is often mixed. giving a much different texture, Homan said.

Authentic wild rice is typically sold at specialty stores, she said.

As for the soup, it requires about 30 minutes preparation time - with about 20 minutes of that time spent cooking the rice. The recipe calls for butter, water, potato soup (canned cream of potato is a suitable shortcut that Homan used on the day of this interview) and onions.

Sometimes she might add mushrooms and sauted green peppers for some variety.

During our interview, Homan talked about general cooking and life as a home economics teacher at Washington County high schools.

Homan started teaching cooking and sewing for Washington County Public Schools in 1959. She retired in 1999.

Q&A with Loretta Homan

Q. At one point, you were teaching, working on a master's degree and you had two young kids. And you still cooked every day? What was that like?

A: People say they're busy, but it takes about the same time to sit down at a restaurant as it does to cook, unless you're doing fast food, and sometimes those aren't that fast.

Q: You were teaching home economics for a while. How have you seen it change?

A: When I started teaching, it was required for every ninth-grade (girl) to take home economics. But when they opened it up (to everyone), the boys, they really liked it. I know of at least one who became a chef.

(Soup) was one of my favorite units when I taught foods. Some of the things I used for recipes, I didn't think they'd like.

Q: Like what?

A: Cream of cauliflower soup.

Q: Really?

A: Yeah. They loved that soup. It had ham in it. I think it was called Cauliflower Ham Chowder. It's really good.

Q: So, I imagine you are quite the sewer.

A: Oh, yes. I used to make everything - I'm talking jackets, coats, suits. You name it. Now, I'm more into quilting for fun. And I'm teaching my granddaughters to sew.

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