There are people in my life whom I am lucky to know. My friends are fun and energetic types, who have the same interests as I do, others are family members whom I love in spite of everything and still a few more that are friends but considered to be family. My father has such a friend and by natural extension, he is a friend to all of us in the Harding clan from Old Meeting House Road. We call him, "Buck" a shortened version of his last name. He is as kind hearted as he is stubborn, a loyal curmudgeon. He and my dad grew up in this small town on Cape Cod together and from their stories there was a lot of hell raising, very little parental supervision, mischief and lack of consequences as they were rarely caught. These two have grown into grouchy yet loveable, salty old guys. They go fishing together and throw back a few beers as the sun sets, then go to bed early. They really don't care to know much about the latest tech gadgets, apps, social media or reality T.V. But if you really need something important done or advice on anything from home repairs to fishing the tides and the best spot to go to the beach on any given day of the year, these two are the ones to call on.Buck in particular is a handy and savvy builder with an eye for design and a New England practicality. So, when my upstairs bathroom ceiling became saturated and stained with water everytime there was a driving rain (which is often in these windy parts), Val suggested I call him. It sounds like a no-brainer, that I should have thought to call Buck myself but navigating the conversation with such a hard headed fellow and the only one who would be able to demand that he NOT climb up onto my roof without back up would be my mother. My pleas for his personal safety would only be met with a grunt from the other end of the phone line.
On the day of the roof repair, my dad was enlisted to oversee safety on the job. The two of them set up a ridiculously tall ladder and had the matter taken care of within minutes. When I heard the commotion on the roof, I looked out to see Buck's van in the driveway and my father keeping watch in the yard at the base of the ladder. I wouldn't have know they were there, as they never announce themselves. By the time I pulled out my cash stash for such occasions, they had already cleaned up and were climbing into the truck to leave. I ran out the door to inquire about the bill. As usual I got a grunt and a wave before Buck drove off. Never acknowledging that he had done any work, at all. This is also why I hesitate to call him. Not only does he come immediately when needed, he refuses to bill me or take any money for the necessary but little odd jobs that no other repairman/builder/carpenter would ever consider doing. It is completely exasperating and so very kind at the same time.
The only way for me to deal with someone like this is to cook for him. He will at least accept a homemade meal and a freshly baked pie or a pile of cookies. However, in order to get him to do this, I need to sneak it into his house and leave the food there when he is not home. Thankfully, this grumbly, old fashioned guy still leaves his door unlocked.
Here is a hearty vegetable soup that keeps well for a few days in the refrigerator and is easy to heat up for lunch or dinner. I deliver it with some freshly made bread and a batch of chocolate chip cookies.
Roasted Root Vegetable Soup
Roast the vegetables:
2 sweet potatoes
4 large carrots
1 red onion
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Wash and peel sweet potatoes, carrots and onion. Cut all vegetables into 1” to 2” chunks. Scatter vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the top of the vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss the vegetables to coat and place them in the oven. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour until the vegetables are soft and browned on the edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature. (This part of the recipe can be done up to 2 days in advance. Cover vegetables and refrigerate until ready to make soup.)
Make the Soup:
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
salt and pepper
Optional toppings, parsley, sour cream, greek yogurt
Place vegetables in a large pot or bowl. Add stock. Puree soup using an immersion blender or regular blender (must do this in batches). Add pureed soup to a large pot and warm over medium heat. Add balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco sauce. Stir and taste. Add salt and pepper only if needed. Add toppings, if desired, before serving.