A New Departure in Flavorings

January 22, 2008 @ 10:49 pm | Filed under: Recipes

“Anne Shirley!” she exclaimed, “what on earth did you put into that cake?”

“Nothing but what the recipe said, Marilla,” cried Anne with a look of anguish.  “Oh, isn’t it all right?”

“All right!  It’s simply horrible.  Mr. Allan, don’t try to eat it.  Anne, taste it yourself.  What flavoring did you use?”

Vanilla,” said Anne, her face scarlet with mortification after tasting the cake.  “Only vanilla.  Oh, Marilla, it must have been the baking powder.  I had my suspicions of that bak—”

“Baking powder fiddlesticks!  Go and bring me the bottle of vanilla you used.”

Anne fled to the pantry and returned with a small bottle partially filled with a brown liquid and labeled yellowly, “Best Vanilla.”

Marilla took it, uncorked it, smelled it.

“Mercy on us, Anne, you’ve flavored that cake with anodyne liniment.  I broke the liniment bottle last week and poured what was left into an old empty vanilla bottle.  I suppose it’s partly my fault—I should have warned you—but for pity’s sake why couldn’t you have smelled it?”

—Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery

You remember how excited I was to make that tortilla soup. I checked the pantry for ingredients yesterday and thought about it all night. Mmm. Now, astonishingly, I was out of diced tomatoes. Diced tomatoes are my little-old-lady-stockpile item. I usually have half a dozen cans. I buy them every time I shop; it’s a compulsion; I can’t explain it—and yet today? Out.

But I found a carton of Trader Joe’s roasted tomato and red pepper soup: this seemed like a tasty substitute. And I had some pollo asada, which promised to make a delicious-sounding recipe absolutely stunning.

For what happened next, I believe I shall blame Alice. It’s her fault for being so engaging on the phone. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

We were chatting, and I was merrily assembling my soup. Sauteed the onions and the chicken: smelled good already. Added the tomato/red pepper soup, half the carton. Frozen corn, a can of black beans, lots of garlic, a can of green chilis. Mmm. I rummaged in the fridge to see if there was a carton of chicken broth open already. There was, almost full. I poured it in, added pepper and cumin.

It looked delicious. My mouth was watering. I had to taste it.

I was expecting that savory, spicy, cumin-and-chili tang. You may imagine, therefore, my bewilderment at what was unmistakably a sweet flavor. And what was that, nutmeg? Cloves? What on earth?

In a sudden panic I checked the tomato-pepper soup ingredients. What if Trader Joe had served up a nutmeg-spiced soup? Had I blown it, mixing this into my spicy Latino dish?

But no, the ingredients reassured me. Tomatoes, peppers, no nutmeg, no cloves. I tasted the soup again. Odd. So very sweet! Really pretty horrible. Definitely a strong taste of—what? Ginger? Cinnamon?

And that’s when I noticed the little yellow teacup on the golden carton of chicken broth. A teacup? On broth?

Oh, no.


Oh yes.


“Break from the everyday” indeed. Black tea, vanilla, spices (nutmeg! cinnamon!), and honey. Just add milk! And tomato soup! And onions, garlic, chicken, and green chili!

Oh, I am a brilliant cook. My recipes? You will not find the like of them anywhere. Food Network keeps ringing my phone off the hook. I’m sorry, I tell them. I already have a job. Three or four of them, actually. I cannot be your next Food Network Star. Yes, “Melissa’s Melting Pot” is a fabulous name for my unique and eclectic kind of culinary fusion. But I’m sorry. You’ll have to get by without me. Tell you what, you may give my recipe for Tortilla Chai Soup to Rachael Ray, with my compliments. I’m pretty sure Alton Brown could get some good mileage out of it as well. There must certainly have been some interesting chemical reactions happening in my stew pot.

Well, the Food Network may be heartbroken, but my story, like Anne’s, has a fairly happy ending. I am glad to say I saved the soup. I sieved it and rinsed off all the vanilla tea broth. Saved the good stuff, the chicken, beans, veggies. Tried again with the rest of the tomato-pepper soup, some salsa, and, yes, ACTUAL CHICKEN BROTH MADE FROM CHICKENS. Not from a fancy tea concentrate Scott bought me as a present, and which it causes him great pain to know was poured down the drain. I am sorry, babe. But the soup turned out to be pretty good, didn’t it?

I think it was that hint of nutmeg beneath the cumin.

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27 Responses | | Comments Feed

  1. ~Holding sides while bent over in laughter~ Oh, those cartons of chai next to the cartons of chicken broth in the pantry…
    I promise you that when you assemble the soup from non-rinsed components (and be sure to use *fire-roasted* tomatoes or the soup will be sweet–I like Muir Glen) it’s gonna be great. Really.

  2. “Melissa’s melting pot” -that could teach my kids to cook ‘outside the box’ -no?

  3. This is LOL hysterical, M! What a great way to start my day. Gracias!

    And Alice always seems so sweet too. Is she secretly sabotaging your culinary attempts to prove herself the better homemaker? I never woulda thunk it.

  4. Oh my, I can only imagine the taste (and I LOVE tortilla soup)! We’ve had that kind of chai around before and it is SO strong and SO sweeeeeeet! 🙂

  5. Melissa’s Asian Tortilla Soup.


  6. ROTFLOL!!! Tortilla Chai Soup, it’s a revelation in culinary savior faire!! Too funny, I’m glad you were able to re-group 🙂 LOL!

  7. Oh dear Lissa, it sounds as if your culinary skills match my own. Thanks for the reminder to carefully double check my ingredients! 😉

    Bon Apetit!

  8. That’s the best. And I’m not trying to top that story, only to commiserate, my father once made meatballs and sauce topped off with a generous sprinkle of COMET TOILET CLEANER that was in the same size and color container as the parmesan cheese.

  9. Jenn!!!!!! That is hilarious! And horrifying!! I’m guessing he NEVER lived that one down!

    One year my friend’s family was ready to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner–feast laid out on groaning table, etc, with the gorgeous and perfectly done turkey right in the middle. My friend says that her mother was just about to call in the horde of relatives watching football when she (mom) glanced up and noticed that the ceiling fan above the table was terribly dusty. So she thought she’d just take a rag and give it a little dusting. Yup. Wound up with a coating of dust peppering the turkey, the mashed potatoes, the gravy, the green bean casserole…everything.

    But at least it wasn’t Comet! 😉

  10. Doesn’t everyone use a chai marinade before cooking up a savory tortillo soup? Perhaps it is just a southern California thing. Hmmm, maybe your Uncle Ray would want to pre-soak his grits in a chai marinade before preparing breakfast!

  11. Fusion cooking at its finest. I’m not sure it would have occurred to me that I could save the soup.

    I also have a diced tomato habit. Doesn’t everyone need two or three cans every time they go to the store?

  12. LOL! Classic!

  13. Mmm.
    Once I accidentally used soy sauce instead of vanilla in some crepes. They were pretty disgusting.

  14. Grinned and nodded all the way thru this one! Still smiling….

  15. hee hee ho ho ha ha hee hee… TOO funny!

    Way to save the soup though, I would’ve been terrified!

    Still laughing… bummer about the lost chai though…

  16. This was funny the first time.

    But it is even more screamingly funny with the photo of the Chai Tea Latte–looking so very much like a box of chicken broth!!!!

    Also rolling laughing over the “Break from the Everyday”!!!

    You know how to tell a story, my friend!

  17. Hee! That sounds like something that I would do, though I don’t know if I would have salvaged it so nicely as you did.

  18. Oh my Lord, can’t stop laughing.
    I have a canned tomato thing too.

  19. That is too funny! A taste sensation! We still kid my mother about the time she put cinnamon in her chili. Also, I am going to e-mail you a recipe from the Anne of Green Gables Cookbook entitled “Anne’s Liniment Cake.” Rest assured…it’s a liniment cake in name only.

    Thank you for the chuckle. Much needed.

  20. Hilarious! And I am so impressed that you soldiered on and saved the soup. I am ashamed to admit I would have tossed it and cried.

  21. Delurking to say that this story made my day.

    My sister made an opposite cooking gaffe a month ago — she and her friends made apple pie and put in cayenne pepper instead of cinnamon.

    She was clever like you, they discovered it before they put it in the crust, so they rinsed off the apples and tried again. She said that it was still a little spicy but that it actually tasted good.

    And last week, I made muffins and after putting them in the oven looked up to see the bowl of melted butter that should be in the muffins. I scraped them all out of the tins and back into the bowl and added the butter and they came out ok. it’s amazing what you can fix.

  22. This made me just LAUGH!

    Now I’m just giggling as I type…

  23. […] experimented with a a new departure in flavorings. (My famous chicken tortilla chai soup recipe. Mm mm […]

  24. […] Someone got to my blog the other day after googling “Melissa Wiley tortilla soup.” Do you think she added my secret ingredient? […]

  25. Hilarious! Both yours and the reminder of Anne’s episdoes–like the Raspberry Cordial….

  26. […] I am feeling considerably cheered by the tortilla chicken soup simmering in my slow cooker. (Not the chai kind.) A couple of gingerbread cookies helped too. Now I’m snuggling under a quilt and wishing I […]

  27. […] Oh dear, here I am only a couple of hours into the day and the post is already 900 words long. I’ve barely begun! What’s to be done? I have notes on all the panels I attended; tomorrow I’ll try to type them up the way I do my Comic-Con notes. Of course many of the best moments happened in the interstices: discussing homeschooling and dear sons with Carol Rasco, who is a treasure; meeting (at long last) Kelly Herold, the first children’s lit blogger I encountered way back in 2005 shortly after Bonny Glen was born; swapping stories with Alice and Sarah; trading recipes with Amy VanDerwater. I’ll see your dandelion fritters and raise you a chai soup! […]