Tag Archives: ruth o’donnell

Portuguese Soup with an MS Twist

A multiple sclerosis culinary event


It was a privilege growing up Portuguese, especially when it came to Portuguese food.  Portuguese delicacies are awesome.

What?  You don’t believe me?

Trust me.  I have way too many extra pounds on my 5’3 frame to prove it.

We Portuguese folks have our own veggie soup and even I, the self proclaimed arch enemy of vegetables, love it.

Of course, my ancestors taught us right; we load our veggie soup up with sausage so it doesn’t taste like a veggie soup.

But it totally is!  It has carrots, potatoes, onions and kale, the super food of my people.

For more information on this please see my prior post titled, Kale, the New Frontier.  


Some people put tomatoes in their soup to make it even healthier and the soup also has lots of beans which offer protein and fiber.  I’m telling you, this soup is good stuff!

And depending on how involved you want to be, there are many different ways to make it.  Some people go all out, growing their own veggies, raising, slaughtering and smoking the sausage themselves and soaking the beans for days.

Before MS, I actually learned to make this soup and I must say, it came out pretty good.  (I personally didn’t slaughter anything though..)

But no matter what the experts say, cooking with multiple sclerosis is hard and shortcuts are often needed.

So I was thrilled to discover a recipe that made the soup process much easier.  Instead of using salt pork for flavor, (I have bought salt pork before but don’t know what it is and am not sure I want to know,) it uses bean and bacon soup.  Soup for your soup?  How incredibly convenient!


Many Portuguese people I know would disown me for using this version but we just won’t tell them.

The problem was, I needed even more shortcuts.  Chopping and peeling are particularly hard for me and so I dared to wander down the canned veggies aisle of the supermarket and was thrilled to discover that potatoes and carrots come in cans!  I scooped them up.

That meant I would only need to wash the kale-take it from a Portuguese person, you really have to wash the kale well.  It’s so good that bugs just can’t resist it.  Now if you are cooking broccoli for some strange reason you probably don’t need to wash that at all.  It’s so gross even dumb bugs stay away from it- chop the linguica (mine is a linguica family, I think the chorizo people are from the islands,) and chop the onions.

Well, one onion.


Chopping onions was really hard for me and so I only use one in my version.  I knew I was saving myself a ton of work.

Mid-afternoon I started washing the kale.  Washing kale should not be that tiring but when you have MS, everything is tiring.   Since I needed to stand at the sink, my legs started to ache during the washing process. I set the kale aside to dry and then rested for a bit.

Next, I opened my cans of veggies.  But with weak, achy fingers, that was an exhausting task too.  And so I rested some more.

Next I started to slice the linguica which wasn’t hard at all.  And since by then I was pretty hungry, it was a fun chore. Slice, snack, slice, snack-oh this slice is uneven, better just munch on it now.

I hadn’t even started cooking the soup yet and it felt like I had been working on this recipe for days instead of an afternoon.


I saved the worse task for last- the onion.  I pulled out the sharpest knife I could find, which is incredibly dangerous even in the best of circumstances.  Not the wisest move when being used by somebody whose hands have a tendency to randomly drop stuff and throw things across the room.

I sat at my kitchen table and carefully started to chop.  I have never been good at chopping onions the right way and have even watched cooking shows for tips.  Nothing has ever worked.

Soon my eyes stung and wouldn’t stop tearing and drastically uneven pieces of onion were scattered all over my table.  There had to be an easier way.


This soup was good for me, mostly- the sodium and the sausage not so much- and I was making the easiest of the easiest of versions and yet I was still struggling.

Why does everything with MS have to be so damn hard???  Even a recipe I have been making for years and watched my mother make for years before that.

As I whined about the miserably chopped onion and felt sorry for myself, my phone rang.  It was my dear, supportive friend Heather who asked what was going on.  I told her my frustrating plight.  She had good advice,

“Yvonne, there’s no reason for you to chop onions if they give you such a hard time.  You can buy them frozen, already chopped.”

Her advice was spot on.  So spot on that I remembered hearing it before.  My mom had told me that many times.  So many times that it occurred to me that I might just have bought……

Sure enough, with Heather on the phone I opened my freezer to find a bag of frozen chopped onions, lying on top of a bag of frozen, prewashed kale; bags I had bought when the cooler weather had first started me craving my favorite soup.  Now my MS frustration was no longer about how I am not even able to chop an onion and get exhausted just rinsing fresh kale, but how it’s hard to even remember the shortcuts you have already designed for yourself.


But, ahhh the soup was good, even with the canned veggies.

And the next time I make it it will be even better with canned and frozen veggies.

That time for sure, it won’t take too much out of me.  And, well, if it does, luckily kale soup goes great with Portuguese wine.

Even luckier, my dear, supportive friend Shannon bought me an electric wine opener!


Friends, as a special gift to you I have included a link to Yankee Magazine where a Portuguese woman named Ruth O’Donnell published her version of the easy way to make kale soup,  Don’t let the Irish name fool you, she was of Portuguese descent. I swear that I put carrots and extra beans in my version- you can too.

And don’t be fooled by the part that says prep time is 20 minutes; it took me almost 20 hours!