My friend David recently took a nasty tumble while on rollerskates, causing a spiral fracture of his tibia. He’s been on the couch recovering from surgery for a bit, and needed a pick-me-up. I was on my way out the door for a long weekend with friends and didn’t want to buy a ton of groceries before leaving. So, I pulled a Karel — meaning I used my mother’s pantry alchemy to put something together from what I had on hand.

Or as she calls it, “Fixing you up.”

As in, “Oh, you are hungry? Well, just sit there. I gunna fix you up.”

Don’t be fooled. My mother — who does refer to herself as Big Mama — is neither uneducated nor Southern. But she is hilarious. And Big Mama regularly speaks with idioms only we in our family understand. It’s a secret language of hilarity I imagine most families develop.

Twenty minutes later, she’d return with a plate of green chile chicken, or shepherd’s pie, or her pretzel crust jello salad that my brother and I can eat by the Pyrex dish-full. The magic in this is that none of those items appeared to be in the fridge when you were hungry 30 minutes prior. She waved her mysterious “fixin'” wand and voila — a delicious meal that only Big Mama can make just right.

Hmmm… pantry alchemy. What was I to do? The garden helped greatly. Scratching my head, I went digging through the freezer to find the remains of a rotisserie chicken ready for the stock pot. With tomatoes and zucchini in abundance, I chopped and diced, while roasting a butternut squash and garlic to add some additional umph.

A few hours later: Garden Soup ready for delivery.

Garden soup

Garden soup

Garden soup

{As it goes with just about any soup, I thought this was much tastier with a dollop of sour cream and a heavy drizzle of Siracha.}

Care Package

David opened the jars of peach and apple preserves with a spoon and took large mouthfuls, oohing and ahhing for my ego. (Some friends know my fragilities better than others.)

“Honey,” I said with a big, smug smile, “I done fixed you up.”

Three states away, my mother, most likely listening to Prince in house slippers, looked to the heavens and said a quiet, “Booyah.”