As the autumn season begins to make its first appearance, I’m reminded of caldos, Mexican soups, and how they mean something special to so many of us.
The mornings are a little cooler. The breeze feels a bit more sentimental. The evenings are turning cozier, and caldos are on my mind. Caldo could be translated to the word soup, but really it is so much more. A good caldo is a warm family moment, a room filled with laughter, or an evening at a quiet table of two.
Caldos can be made up of vegetables and potatoes. Albondigas is a caldo that is meatball based. Caldo de res, is a hearty, meaty beef soup. We all know of posole and menudo — traditional holiday and Sunday morning favorites. And of all caldos that come to mind, my favorite is caldo de queso.
I remember growing up having many bowls of this humble meal. It only has a few ingredients, potatoes, cheese, green chile, tomatoes, and onion. It’s easy to make and can feed a large family at a small price. It’s perfect for a poor and hungry Mexican family.
Caldo de queso was served at home many times. When I visited tios and tias, there was caldo. At nana’s home, caldo was a staple. The smell of a large pot boiling up potatoes and green chiles is something that never leaves your memory. The aroma hits you before you open the front door and immediately you get the feeling that you are welcome and that you are family.
I think soups get a bad rap. They are identified with serving the homeless or the sickly. They are a poor man’s food and for some reason they never seem to be enough alone. Americans want to add a grilled cheese or a sandwich, a bowl of salad or some other side dish.
In Mexico, a caldo is more then plenty. Most caldo variations are filled to the brim either with meat and veggies, potatoes and chile, hominy and tripe. The only reason you have a homemade tortilla with it is because that’s what you do. Don’t question it.
As a kid, sometimes I frowned upon caldos. I wanted real food like tacos or enchiladas, but mamas and abuelas knew better. They knew that a good caldo will fill you up just the same. They knew that once everyone has had a bowl, the big pot on the back burner has enough for seconds and thirds. They knew that caldo time is important. It’s family time and it’s something that has been passed on from Mexican moms to Mexican daughters to share with their families through the generations.
There are many days of summer heat left on the calendar and even on those days, eating caldos is O.K. You might be sweating as you make your way through a hot bowl of yumminess, but the rewards of family time, the smell of freshly made tortillas, and the lasting memories you’ll make at the dinner table are all worth it.
Have a bowl of caldo tonight. It will be satisfying to the stomach and to the soul. Buen provecho!