June 25, 2008 · Updated 1:16 PM
"Well, what a heck of a way to end an already eventful February! In the oft-used and misquoted words of Hemingway, Did the earth move for you, too?The headline of my Feb. 21 column said, if it's shaking like Jell-O, perhaps you're in Utah. Hah! Nope; if it was shaking like Jell-O last week, you were in the good old Pacific Northwest, riding out the worst rattler since 1949. And thank heaven it did shake like Jell-O rather than jolt and rattle, because that's evidently what saved our area from becoming the latest headline-making major disaster. As I understand it, damage was minimal given the magnitude of the quake and, as awful as even one death is, I think we all know how much worse it might have been.I well recall the quake of 1949, my first and worst to date. I stood outside our high school building, watching it undulate as though it were made of rubber, not brick and mortar. I remember thinking that it was not possible for a brick wall to behave like a bowl of Jell-O, but there it was, right before my eyes. I was also anxiously watching the ground around me, fearfully waiting for huge cracks to open up beneath us and begin swallowing the huddled groups of kids who'd been sent outside the old building for safety. I'd seen the old movie San Francisco and knew what was surely going to happen, so I was frantically trying to figure out where to jump when the ground opened up.That's the thing about being in something like an earthquake, or tornado, or raging flood - we always remember where we were and what we were doing when it hit. The main topic of conversation for weeks after an such event is, Where were you when...? followed by I remember the one in .......Well, I'll not be participating in such conversations this time, because I missed it altogether. I'll have no memories of the great quake of February, 01, to share with fellow islanders, no quirky stories about what happened to various household items or how it felt to be riding along the freeway thinking I'd blown a tire. In short, I'll just have to sit quietly and listen whenever the topic comes up, then throw in my two cents about the quake of '49.Why? Because John and I weren't here; we missed it entirely. We were then in California, earthquake capital of the country, where the ground was quiet and steady but the heavens had opened up and let loose with three days and four nights of rain, all the rain Washington so badly needs. Everyone there is talking about it now, where they were and what they did while it was going on. No, not the earthquake; they're pretty commonplace, after all. It's the rain, the big rain of February, 01, that Californians will remember. You can bet I won't be talking about that on the island. RecipesAs always when we travel, I'm having a good time collecting recipes. Each area of our land has its own special cuisine, loosely based on whatever happens to be the locally grown and/or favorite ingredient/s. One such genre is termed Southwestern, one of our favorites, which has certainly become popular in a much wider area than what we know as the Southwest. It's also a bit difficult to define, as it's basically a combination of elements from Spain, Mexico and now Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California. Because I'm a big fan of soup, especially the kind you throw virtually anything into, Caldo is one of my favorites. The word originally meant broth but now refers more often to clear soup filled with chunks of meat and vegetables, standard fare in home kitchens throughout Mexico, the Southwest and, I might add, our kitchen.Southwestern Caldo2 cups cooked meat (pork, beef, lamb, etc.), cut into bite-sized pieces4 boiling-type potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters1 large onion, quartered3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced into large chunks2 turnips, peeled and quartered1 small head cabbage, coarsely chopped2 ears fresh corn on the cob, sliced into 2-inch rounds4 cups chicken stock or broth (preferably homemade)2 cups water1 t. each, salt and freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)3 T. tequila (or use sherry), optional1 lime, quartered1 T. chopped cilantro2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced1. Into a large soup pot, place all ingredients except the lime, cilantro and jalapenos. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Ladle the soup into large heated soup bowls and top with a sprinkling of cilantro. Allow guests to add jalapeno as desired and serve with a wedge of lime on the side and hot steamed rice. Add a salad and bolillos (hard rolls) for a typical meal. This should serve 4; obviously you can expand this to whatever capacity necessary.As long as we're talking soup, here's another popular Southwestern soup that's equally good whether you serve it hot or chilled, making it great for a winter warmer or summer cooler, although it's warm either way. It's also a beautiful red color, thanks to the roasted chiles.Sopa Roja (Red Soup)2 red bell peppers1 red serrano chile, roasted1 T. vegetable oil1 shallot (or small onion), finely chopped1 lb. ripe plum tomatoes, peeled and seeded2 cups chicken or vegetable stockSalt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste1 yellow bell pepperCroutons and creme fraiche, for garnishChile oil, optional or to taste1. Place both red and yellow bell peppers and the red serrano chile in a baking pan, then place pan under a broiler and roast on all sides until skins are blackened and blistered. Remove from broiler and place in a plastic bag and allow to steam for 6 or 7 minutes, then pull out stems and seeds, scrape off the skin (discard) and slice peppers into strips. Reserve the yellow pepper strips for garnish.2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add shallot, tomatoes, serrano chile and red bell peppers. Cover and cook the vegetables for about 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the stock and seasonings and simmer for 20 minutes or until all vegetables are quite tender. Place mixture in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.3. Reheat the soup, adjust seasonings as necessary, and serve in heated bowls, garnishing each with strips of yellow bell pepper. Serve with croutons and a small dollop of creme fraiche and a drizzle of chile oil, if desired. Serves 4.And if you're a fan of chimichangas, you'll love this easy Southwestern-style dessert:Fruity Chimichangas12 flour tortillas2 cups fruit pie filling, homemade or purchased (cherry, pineapple, berry, etc.)Oil for deep fryingPowdered sugar1. Spoon about 3 T. of fruit filling down the middle of each tortilla. Fold in the ends of the tortilla then roll it up and fasten with a toothpick. Heat the oil in a heavy pot or deep fryer to 375 degrees. Drop the chimichangas in (don't crowd) and fry until golden. Drain on paper towels, dust with powdered sugar and serve warm. Outstanding with ice cream! "