friday feast: one potato two potato three potato five

Paprika via Food Additives World

They say one man’s potato is another man’s soup.

And I say there is nothing more endearing than a college student learning how to make his first soup from his mother and his aunt. Via laptop, of course.

I was tickled pink to find Daniel Nyikos’s poem happily simmering over at Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. Love the juxtaposition of old world and new, the easy family banter, and proof once again that love is the best seasoning for any soup.


by Daniel Nyikos

I set up my computer and webcam in the kitchen
so I can ask my mother’s and aunt’s advice
as I cook soup for the first time alone.
My mother is in Utah. My aunt is in Hungary.
I show the onions to my mother with the webcam.
“Cut them smaller,” she advises.
“You only need a taste.”
I chop potatoes as the onions fry in my pan.
When I say I have no paprika to add to the broth,
they argue whether it can be called potato soup.
My mother says it will be white potato soup,
my aunt says potato soup must be red.
When I add sliced peppers, I ask many times
if I should put the water in now,
but they both say to wait until I add the potatoes.
I add Polish sausage because I can’t find Hungarian,
and I cook it so long the potatoes fall apart.
“You’ve made stew,” my mother says
when I hold up the whole pot to the camera.
They laugh and say I must get married soon.
I turn off the computer and eat alone.
Copyright © 2010 Daniel Nyikos. All rights reserved.

Daniel’s poem prompted a recipe search for Hungarian Potato Soup. There were many variations, of course, some were clear and some were creamy. Some were simple concoctions of potatoes, water, milk, onions, salt and paprika — while others called for sour cream, celery, tomatoes, even garlic.

I also learned a bit more about Hungarian paprika and its varying degrees of hotness. Didn’t want to set my mouth on fire, so with apologies to Daniel’s aunt, I adapted a simple crock pot recipe and used both hot and sweet paprika. Like Daniel, I couldn’t find any Hungarian sausage, so substituted Polish Kielbasa. And like Daniel’s, my soup eventually turned into a “stew.” But it made a nice winter’s meal, along with crusty bread and fresh creamery butter. Next time, I’ll experiment with smoky paprika. I feel like part of the family now ☺.




5-6 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2″ cubes
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup fat-free or low-fat milk
1 ring turkey kielbasa 

Place potatoes, broth, paprikas, celery seeds and salt in 4-quart or large slow cooker. Stir to combine.

Heat oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Transfer to cooker.

Cover. Cook on low 4 to 6 hours, or until potatoes are tender. Stir to break up potatoes into broth for a slightly chunky consistency.

Add dill, nutmeg, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Stir in milk. Add sliced sausage and cover. Cook 20 to 30 more minutes, or until heated through.


Poet and fiction writer Daniel Nyikos was born in Germany to a Hungarian mother and an American father of Hungarian descent. He earned his B.A. and M.A. at Utah State University and is currently working towards his doctorate in Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska. I wonder if he has finally perfected his Potato Soup?

What was the first soup you ever made? Who taught you the recipe?

♥ Talented poet, proud grandmother and excellent cook Elaine Magliaro is hosting today’s Poetry Friday Roundup at Wild Rose Reader. Get thee hence and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week.

♥ Learn more about Hungarian Paprika here.


Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

27 thoughts on “friday feast: one potato two potato three potato five

  1. I think I remember the first soup I ever made was chili, called my mother on the phone to see if I could do whatever she did. I’m looking for memoir poems, Jama, & this will ‘serve’ me very well for a writing class. Thank you! It also calls up my own memory of my daughter’s first Thanksgiving alone when I spent much of the days before telling her how to do the stuffing, the gravy, etc. She was so lonely and worked hard to fix her dinner so she could BE home! And, the soup looks delicious. I didn’t know there were various kinds of paprika!


    1. I think chili was probably one of my first soups too, modeled after what my mother made for us at home. Either that, or beef stew.

      Thanks for sharing the wonderful memory of your daughter’s Thanksgiving. Always like to hear about recipes passed down through the generations. Great legacy!

      I learned more about paprika because of this poem. The Hungarians apparently have the market cornered, but I think the Spanish are known for their smoky paprika.


  2. Lovely poem.

    I remember my grandmother’s potato soup. It always soothed me as a kid, but I could never duplicate it later. It just had to be made by her.


  3. Oh, what a sweet poem. A little bittersweet at the end – I would have had a hard time turning off the webcam – it’s like leaving the table to eat in the kitchen by yourself.


    1. I felt the same way. Would have been nice to eat with the two ladies chatting away, keeping him company. But of course, maybe he wanted the peace and quiet ;).


  4. Soup is Lovelovelove. Ok and stew too. This is a lovely poem, Jama – and it shows how far we’ve come in terms of connecting people thru technology. I showed this recipe to my husband (who cooks our meals at home, I’m hopeless in the kitchen, I’m afraid – unless, it is baking, of course) – and he tuned off, asking if there was something from youtube he could watch and follow. Men. *sigh*

    I remembered trying my hand at creamy asparagus soup once and it wasn’t a total disaster – it was actually pretty yummy. Hmmm.. maybe I’m not such a hopeless case in the kitchen after all. 🙂


    1. This is a very easy recipe, Myra. Just put everything in the crockpot. And it’s pretty forgiving — you can add sausage or not. No need to add any thickening agents since the potatoes will take care of that. And you can experiment with different paprikas!


  5. You know I love a good soup poem, Jama, especially when a recipe is included. Thank you for sharing this! My husband is part Hungarian. I’m looking forward to sharing the poem with him, then trying to talk him into making the soup.


  6. I love the idea of cooking over skype because it’s the little things that matter like the size of the onions or the argument between your mom and your aunt. It seems to me that cooking is not something that can be learned from a book.


    1. Certainly all the little touches that come with a family recipe can’t be learned from any book. And they inevitably signify more than just physical food.


  7. I never realized that soup recipes could call up so many memories for me!! There’s mom’s broccoli cheese soup (with BACON), and the Golden Cream potato soup in the recipe book a group of teachers put together so many years ago. There’s chili served on a bed of Fritos, and the improbably delicious sauerkraut soup. Don’t even get me started on chicken and noodles served over/with mashed potatoes!

    If we hadn’t just finished a gigantic pot of curry (which turned out to be a sort of curry potato soup with a bit of chicken — remind me to make a note on that recipe to halve the potatoes) I’d be making soup for dinner!


    1. What a mouthwatering comment, Mary Lee! I’m drooling all over the place. I’ve never had broccoli cheese soup — must try it sometime. I do like chili on Fritos, too, but chicken and noodles over mashed potatoes? Interesting (I’ve had it with rice lots of times). Now I’m craving curry . . . 🙂


  8. I adore the sweetness and longing in this poem, the young boy using modern technology to access the tastes of his family, his history, his past. And the voices in the kitchen…but not the people in the kitchen. It really spoke to me, Jama. Thank you!

    Today is definitely a soup day – going down to the freezer to pull out some butternut squash soup right now! Thank you for that too!

    How did you make that “Stop Censorship” flag?



    1. So glad you liked the poem, Amy. I also found a sweetness about it; could just picture the whole thing. I hope we see more of Daniel’s poems out in the wild :).

      The Stop Censorship banner is something offered to its users. We get to display it until the 24th of this month. I’d like to find a widget that I could permanently display in my sidebar.

      Enjoy your soup! I’ve always wanted to try butternut squash soup :).


    1. Thanks, the recipe sounds delicious! Hope to try it soon. 🙂

      I have a hunch someone somewhere has already designed such a widget. Need to investigate further.


  9. Very sweet poem! Thanks for sharing it. We had a delicious German meal yesterday with fantastic sausage and potatoes. Would have made a great stew!


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