Mamanche… Blanche Register Russell

I wish y’all could have known your maternal great-grandmother Mamanche.  Her real name was Blanche, but her first granddaughter, Margy, could not say Blanche, so they called her “Ma Manche” — short for Momma Blanche.
Mamanche was the only person in my family that approved of my first marriage to Perrin Trotter. I was 19 when we got engaged and 20 when we married. Mamanche was only 16 when she married her husband, ‘Daddy Russell’. He robbed the cradle and got himself a gem. Mamanche thought 20 was plenty old to get married. I will never forget how supportive she was, even though the marriage did not work out. We were just too young.
Mamanche and Daddy Russell had four children: Sam, Ethel. Pug, and your grandma Margy. They also raised Louise Lambright. She was another sister to them and another aunt to me. Back then, people took care of their people.  What has happened to that practice today? Uh, oh, I’m going off on a tangent… got to stick with the subject. But I really wish we still treated each other with that kind of respect today.
The best memories I have of Mamanche are the times we cooked together with Reubie. Reubie was like Jenny Lou, who raised me. Reubie had a beautiful smile. Her lips really looked like rubies and her long arms and legs permeated Mamanche’s kitchen. She was the best lady and the best fried chicken cook in the world. Her biscuits were locally famous, too. She definitely knew her way around a Southern specialty! If I had not spent all those times with Mamanche and Reubie, I do not think I would be able to cook, much less want to cook.
Mamanche taught me how to cook her famous vegetable soup:  Mamanche’s Vegetable Soup. Here’s the recipe:

2 to 3 pounds of Lean stew beef, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 to 3 large purple onions, diced up
16 ounces of canned chopped tomatoes (fresh if you have them)
1 large bag of frozen okra
1 to 2 cups of chopped celery
1 large can of shoe peg corn (teeny corn)
1 large can of midget butter beans
Lots and lots of shredded cabbage
Bouillon cubes if you need them
Salt and pepper
Tomatoes… if you have fresh cut them up and add to the mix… fresh never hurts

            Put at least 4 quarts of water along with onions, tomatoes and beef into a large boiler. Bring to a boil and cook until the beef is tender. Add all other ingredients and cook slowly. Slowly stir so the ingredients won’t stick to the bottom of the pot. There is nothing worse than cutting up and taking the time to get all the goodies in the pot, and then burning it. I have done it and it’s just not the same; a little burnt flavor does not enhance the recipe. Do not over-salt or pepper, since that hides the vegetables’ flavor. Everyone can add what he or she likes later. The longer it cooks, the better it tastes… and even let sit overnight, put a lid on it and eat the next day. Delicious!

I promise you this is the best vegetable soup in the world. The secret is the shredded cabbage. You cannot see it, but it provides bulk and a distinct taste. Do not tell anyone the secret. In a little while, I might even give you the secret biscuit recipe — and the secret pound cake recipe. From memory.