The recipe for this incredible soup can never be duplicated. It was never written down or passed on orally. As the years pass, my memory of the delicious soup almost seems magical. Let me explain.
Growing up in the fifties I was a member of the South Boston Girl’s Club. The big old Victorian clubhouse was located diagonally across from the Boy’s Club at F and Sixth Street. I envied the boys’ large gymnasium and swimming pool. The girls had a reading room, a kitchen for cooking classes and a dimly lit cellar for “beauty school”. We had no gym or pool. When I attended the coed “Splash Parties” I would marvel at the variety of the activity rooms available to the boys.
I was curious about playing pool and I wondered about the secrets the ‘cabin’ room held but I never thought it was unfair. I just accepted it as the Boy’s Club
However, summer day camp at the Club offered an equal opportunity for all South Boston boys and girls. I would get excited when the list of available weeks was posted. My mother would sign me up for a two-week session in July that was coordinated with my girlfriends from the Old Colony project. Anne Marie Foley, Patty Healey, Ruth Ostiguy, Dorothy Eagan and Virginia Fitzgerald would meet each morning with bag lunches and walk to the Club. We would catch up with Marie Cherry, Denise Driscoll and Noreen Nevins before boarding the bus for a day of fun and adventure
What kind of soup
One particular afternoon we were told not to bring a sandwich for lunch the next day but to bring a can of soup. Since we were not given any detailed instructions as to what kind of soup, we all brought our own individual favorite. As we walked to the bus the next morning, we compared our selection of soups. My favorite was tomato. My girlfriends had chicken noodle, chicken with rice, beef barley, vegetable beef and just plain vegetable. When we got to the Boys Club, we were amazed by the number of soups we never heard of, not to mention that we would rather die than try them. We all assumed that each of us would heat up our can of soup and enjoy
It was a perfect summer day as the bus pulled into the parking lot at Nahant beach. We played dodge ball on the beach and body surfed the waves until noontime. The camp counselors started a charcoal fire in one of the barbecue pits on the beach. Each one of us got to open our soup can with a key-wind opener and pour the contents into a huge cauldron. Everything was blended together and we all had a turn stirring the great pot
Thinking back, it certainly kept us occupied and focused for a couple of hours. When the soup was ready, we got in line with paper coffee cups and a plastic spoon to receive the mysterious concoction.
Okra, lima beans and all, it was the most delicious treat. Most of us went back for seconds and many of the boys, thirds. What made that soup so incredibly delicious or that day so truly special? The kids, the camp, the counselors and the circumstances made that day unforgettable. Southie boys and girls who didn’t have a lot of material things, shared life’s simple lessons and pleasures. It was the BEST! We did not know about fancy tennis camps, Cape Cod golf courses or elite sailing programs. I do know we had more laughs and fun at the Clubs and just growing up in Southie where we learned the value of true friendship
Written by Nina Hayes