Sep 112017
 

On this date in 1541, Michimalonco and a large band of local Indians attacked the newly founded Spanish settlement of Santiago (now in Chile) after seven caciques were taken hostage by Spaniards following an uprising. Michimalonco is a bit of a shadowy figure because the historical records for this period are so sparse. Michima means “foreigner” and lonco means “head” or “chief” in the Mapudungun language. He was an indigenous chief said to be a great warrior, born in the Aconcagua Valley but educated in Cusco under the Inca Empire. Hence he was known in Quechua as a “foreigner” because he was not an Inca (and spoke Quechua with an accent). His actual name is not now known. When he first presented himself to the Spanish he was naked and covered with a black pigment. He had seven wives and lived between the Jahuel Valley and Putaendo Valley at the time of the Spanish conquest.

Santiago in 1541 was a new settlement founded by Pedro de Valdivia, who led Spanish forces south to Chile from Peru to conquer the region. He was accompanied by his mistress Inés Suárez, (c. 1507–1580), eventually a conquistador in her own right, and one of the leaders of the Spanish in Santiago at the time of Michimalonco’s attack. Suárez’s husband had died before she reached Peru (she told a compatriot that he died at sea) and the next information that is known of her is from 1539, when she applied for and was granted, as the widow of a Spanish soldier, a small plot of land in Cuzco and encomienda rights to a number of Indian slaves. Shortly afterwards she became Valdivia’s mistress which later caused considerable scandal because he was married at the time (and was eventually forced to leave her and bring his wife to Chile from Spain). I am not entirely sure why the Spanish nobility were so up in arms about the affair since this kind of thing was perfectly normal among the European aristocracy.

The earliest mention of Suárez’ friendship with Valdivia was after he returned from the Battle of Las Salinas (1538). Although they were from the same area of Spain and at least one novelist relates a tale of long-standing love between them, there is no real evidence that they had met prior to her arrival in Cuzco. In late 1539, over the objections of Francisco Martínez and encouraged by some of his captains, Valdivia, using the intermediary services of a priest, requested official permission for Suárez to become a part of the group of 12 Spaniards he was leading to the South. Francisco Pizarro, in his letter to Valdivia (January 1540) granting permission for Suárez to accompany Valdivia as his domestic servant, addressed the following words to Suárez, “…as Valdivia tells me, the men are afraid to go on such a long trip and you very courageously put yourself in the face of that danger…”

During the long and harrowing trip to the south, Suárez, in addition to caring for Valdivia and treating the sick and wounded, found water for them in the desert, and saved Valdivia when one of his rivals tried to undermine his enterprise and take his life. The Indians, having already experienced the incursions of the Spaniards, (Diego de Almagro, 1535–1536) burned their crops and drove off their livestock, leaving nothing for Valdivia’s band and their animals.

In December 1540, eleven months after they left Cuzco, Valdivia and his band reached the valley of the Mapocho river, where Valdivia was to establish the capital of the territory. The valley was extensive and well populated with natives. Its soil was fertile and there was abundant fresh water. Two high hills provided defensive positions. Soon after their arrival, Valdivia tried to convince the Indians of his good intentions, sending delegations bearing gifts for the caciques.

The Indians kept the gifts but, united under the leadership of Michimalonco, attacked the Spanish and were at the point of overwhelming them. Suddenly, the Indians threw down their weapons and fled. Captured Indians declared that they had seen a man, mounted on a white horse and carrying a naked sword, descend from the clouds and attack them. The Spaniards decided it was a miraculous appearance of Santo Iago (Saint James the Greater who had already been seen during the Reconquista at the battle of Clavijo) and, in thanks, named the new city Santiago del Nuevo Extremo. The city was officially dedicated on February 12, 1541.

In August 1541 Suárez uncovered another plot to unseat Valdivia. After the plot was put down, Valdivia invited seven caciques to meet with him to arrange for the delivery of food to the settlement. When the Indians arrived, Valdivia had them held as hostages for the safe delivery of the provisions and the safety of outlying settlements. On the September 9, Valdivia took 40 men and left the city to put down an uprising of Indians near Aconcagua.

Early on the morning of September 10, 1541, a young yanakuna (Inca servant) brought word to Captain Alonso de Monroy, who had been left in charge of the city, that the woods around the city were full of Indians. Suárez was asked if she thought that the Indian hostages should be released as a peace gesture. She replied that it was a bad idea because if the Indians overpowered the Spanish the hostages would provide their only bargaining power. Monroy issued a call for a council of war.

Just before dawn on September 11, mounted Spanish soldiers rode out to engage the Indians, whose numbers were estimated first at 8,000 and later at 20,000, led by Michimalonco. In spite of the advantage of their horses and their skill with their swords, by noon the Spanish were pushed into a retreat toward the east, across the Mapocho River; and, by mid-afternoon, they were backed up to the plaza itself. All day the battle raged. Fire arrows and torches set fire to most of the city. Four Spaniards were killed along with dozens of horses and other animals. The situation became desperate. The priest, Rodrigo González Marmolejo, said later that the fight was like the Day of Judgment for the Spanish and that only a miracle saved them.

All day Suárez had been carrying food and water to the fighting men, nursing the wounded, giving them encouragement and comfort. The historian Mariño de Lobera wrote of her activities during the battle:

 …and she went among them, she told them that if they felt fatigued and if they were wounded she would cure them with her own hands… she went where they were, even among the hooves of the horses; and she did not just cure them, she animated them and raised their morale, sending them back into the battle renewed… one caballero whose wounds she had just treated, was so tired and weak from loss of blood that he could not mount his horse. This woman was so moved by his plea for help that she put herself into the midst of the fray and helped him to mount his horse.

Suárez recognized the discouragement of the men and the extreme danger of the situation; she offered a suggestion. All day the seven caciques who were prisoners of the Spaniards, had been shouting encouragement to their people. Suárez proposed that the Spanish decapitate the seven and toss their heads out among the Indians in order to frighten them. There was some objection to the plan, since several men felt that the fall of the city was imminent and that the captive caciques would be their only bargaining advantage with the Indians. Suárez insisted that hers was the only viable solution to their problem. She then went to the house where the caciques were guarded by Francisco Rubio and Hernando de la Torre and gave the order for the execution. Mariño de Lobera tells that the guard, La Torre, asked, “In what manner shall we kill them, my lady?” “In this manner,” she replied, and, seizing la Torre’s sword, she herself cut off their heads. After the seven were decapitated and their heads thrown out among the Indians, Suárez put on a coat of mail and a helmet and rode out on her white horse. According to an eyewitness, “…she went out to the plaza and put herself in front of all the soldiers, encouraging them with words of such exaggerated praise that they treated her as if she were a brave captain,…instead of a woman masquerading as a soldier in iron mail.”

The Spanish took advantage of the confusion and disorder engendered among the Indians by the gory heads, and spurred on by the courageous woman who now led them, succeeded in driving the now disordered Indians from the town. One historian wrote, “The Indians said afterward that the Christians would have been defeated were it not for a woman on a white horse.”In 1545, in recognition of her courage and valor, Valdivia rewarded Suárez with an encomienda. His testament of dedication said in part:

    …in battle with the enemies who did not take into account the caciques who were our prisoners, they that were in the most central place – to which the Indians came, …throwing themselves on you, and you, seeing how weakened your beleaguered forces were then, you made them kill the caciques who were prisoners, putting your own hands on them, causing the majority of the Indians to run away and they left off fighting when they witnessed the evidence of the death of their chieftains; …it is certain that if they had not been killed and thrown among their countrymen, there would not be a single Spaniard remaining alive in all this city… by taking up the sword and letting it fall on the necks of the cacique prisoners, you have saved all of us.

Had it not been for Suárez’ actions the city would have certainly fallen. You’ll have to decide for yourself what this episode says about the conquistadores. After the defeat Michimalonco fled to the Andes mountain valleys. He hid there for a couple of years but, feeling homesick, he went back to the valley and allied his forces with the Spanish and went to fight the Mapuches in the south. The ultimate success of the Spanish, in both Inca and Aztec territory, was achieved by a simple policy of using Indian forces against Indians, since the Spanish were seriously outnumbered in the early years of conquest. It’s the ages old policy of “divide and conquer” which the Romans knew all about 1,500 years earlier (“divide et impera”). If local Indian forces had been united against Spanish, British, French, or Dutch incursions into the Americas, the invaders never would have succeeded. Because they were divided among themselves they were easy prey.

Chilean cuisine, like all of South American cuisine, is a mix of local and European influences. The Spanish brought grapes, olives, walnuts, chestnuts, rice, wheat, citrus fruits, sugar, garlic, and spices. They also brought chicken, beef, sheep, pigs, rabbits, milk, cheeses, and sausages. The local Indians used corn in many of their dishes. The combination of the Spanish and indigenous ingredients resulted in popular corn-based dishes that are still part of the typical diet. Popular dishes include humitas (corn that is pureed and cooked in corn husks) and pastel de choclo (corn and meat pie).

Pastel de Choclo

Ingredients

4 cups frozen corn
8 leaves fresh basil, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried, crumbled)
3 tbsp butter
1 cup milk
4 large onions, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp oil
1 lb ground beef
salt and pepper
ground cumin
1 cup black olives
1 cup raisins
2 pieces of cooked chicken breast, cut into cubes or strips
2 tbsp confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Heat the corn, basil, salt, and butter in a large pot. Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Set aside.

Fry the onions in oil until they are soft. Add the ground meat and stir to brown. Drain the grease from the pan. Season with salt, pepper, and ground cumin to taste.

Use an oven-proof dish to prepare the pie. Spread the onion and ground meat mixture on the bottom of the dish, then arrange the olives and raisins on top. Place chicken pieces over the top. Cover the filling with the corn mixture, then sprinkle on the confectioners’ sugar.

Bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

Serve hot.

Feb 122017
 

By strange coincidence this date marks two events that represent the beginning and the end of the Spanish rule of Chile.  On this date in 1541 the conquistador Pedro de Valdivia founded the city of Santiago, establishing a permanent Spanish colony, and on this date in 1817 Argentine and Chilean troops defeated Spanish royalist troops at the battle of Chacabuco, effectively ending Spanish rule (although there was another year of fighting). One year later on this date – not by coincidence – Bernardo O’Higgins declared Chile an independent nation.

According to archaeological investigations, it is believed that the first human groups settled in the Santiago basin in the 10th millennium BCE. The groups were mainly nomadic hunter-gatherers, who traveled from the coast to the interior in search of guanacos (Lama guanicoe) during the time of the Andean snowmelt. About the year 800 CE, the first inhabitants began to settle due to the formation of agricultural communities along the Mapocho River growing mainly maize, potatoes and beans, and herding domesticated camelids.

The villages established in the areas belonging to ethnic picunches groups (called promaucaes by Incas), were subject to the Inca Empire throughout the late 15th century and into the early 16th century. The Incas settled in the valley of mitimaes, now in the center of the present city, with fortifications and sacred sites at Huaca de Chena and El Plomo. The area was the center for the failed Inca expeditions southward along the Inca Trail.

Pedro de Valdivia reached the valley of the Mapocho on 13 December 1540,  having been sent by Francisco Pizarro from Peru and having made the long journey from Cuzco through the desert rather than face crossing the Andes. Valdivia’s troops camped by the river in the slopes of the Tupahue hill and slowly began to interact with the picunches who inhabited the area. Valdivia later summoned the chiefs of the area to a parliament, where he explained his intention to found a city on behalf of king Carlos I of Spain, which would be the capital of his governorship of Nueva Extremadura. The natives accepted and even recommended the foundation of the town on a small island between two branches of the river next to a small hill called Huelén.

On 12 February 1541, Valdivia officially founded the city of Santiago del Nuevo Extremedura in honor of St James and of his native region of Spain. Following the norms of colonial rule, Valdivia entrusted the layout of the new town to master builder Pedro de Gamboa, who designed the city with a standard grid layout. In the center of the city, Gamboa designed a Plaza Mayor, around which various plots for the Cathedral and the governor’s house were selected. In total, eight blocks from north to south, and ten from east to west, were built. Each solar (quarter block) was given to the settlers, who built houses of mud and straw.

Valdivia left months later to go south with his troops, beginning the War of Arauco. Santiago was left unprotected. The indigenous hosts of Michimalonco used this to their advantage, and attacked the fledgling city. On 11 September 1541, the city was destroyed by the Michimalonco, but the 55 members of the Spanish garrison managed to defend the fort. The resistance was led by Inés de Suárez, a mistress to Valdivia. When she realized they were being overrun, she ordered the execution of all native prisoners, and proceeded to put their heads on pikes and also threw a few heads at the Indian forces. In face of this barbaric act, the Indians dispersed in terror. The city was be slowly rebuilt, giving prominence to the newly founded Concepción, where the Royal Audiencia of Chile was then founded in 1565. However, the constant danger faced by Concepción, due partly to its proximity to the War of Arauco and also to a succession of devastating earthquakes, would not allow the definitive establishment of the Royal Court in Santiago until 1607. This establishment reaffirmed the city’s role as capital. Until 1817 Chile was part of Spanish viceroyalties in South America.

In 1814, having been instrumental in the establishment of a popularly elected congress in Argentina, José de San Martín began to consider the problem of driving the Spanish royalists from South America entirely. He figured that the first step would be to expel them from Chile, and, to this end, he set about recruiting and equipping an army. In just under two years, he had an army of around 6,000 men, 1,200 horses and 22 cannons.

On January 17, 1817, he set out with this force and began the crossing of the Andes. Careful planning on his part had meant that the royalist forces in Chile were deployed to meet threats that did not exist, and his crossing went unopposed. Nonetheless, the Army of the Andes (San Martín ‘s force) suffered heavy losses during the crossing, losing as much as one-third of its men and more than half of its horses. San Martín ended up allying with Chilean patriot Bernardo O’Higgins, who commanded his own army.

The royalists rushed north in response to their approach, and a force of about 1,500 under Brigadier Rafael Maroto blocked San Martín ‘s advance at a valley called Chacabuco, near Santiago. In the face of the disintegration of the royalist forces, Maroto proposed abandoning the capital and retreating southward, where they could hold out and obtain resources for a new campaign. The military conference called by Royal Governor Field Marshal Casimiro Marcó del Pont on February 8 adopted Maroto’s strategy, but the following morning, the Captain General changed his mind and ordered Maroto to prepare for battle in Chacabuco.

The night before the clash, Antonio Quintanilla confided to another Spanish official his opinion of the ill-chosen strategy: Given the position of the insurgents, the royalist forces ought to retreat a few leagues towards the hills of Colina. “Maroto overheard this conversation from a nearby chamber and either couldn’t or refused to hear me because of his pride and self-importance, called on an attendant with his notorious hoarse voice and proclaimed a general decree on pain of death, to whoever suggested a retreat.”

All Maroto and his troops had to do was delay San Martín, as he knew that further royalist reinforcements were on the way from Santiago. San Martín was well aware of this as well and opted to attack while he still had the numerical advantage. San Martín received numerous reports of the Spanish plans from a spy dressed as a roto, a poverty-stricken peasant of Chile. The roto told him that the Spanish general, Marcó, knew of fighting in the mountains and told his army to “run to the field”, which refers to Chacabuco. He also told San Martín the plan of General Rafael Maroto, the leader of the Talavera Regiment and a force of volunteers of up to 2,000 men. His plan was to take the mountainside and launch an attack against San Martín.

O’Higgins

On February 11, three days before his planned date of attack, San Martín called a war council to decide on a plan. Their main goal was to take the Chacabuco Ranch, the royalist headquarters, at the bottom of the hills. He decided to split his 2,000 troops into two parts, sending them down two roads on either side of the mountain. The right contingent was led by Miguel Estanislao Soler, and the left by O’Higgins. The plan was for Soler to attack their flanks, while at the same time surrounding their rear guard in order to prevent their retreat. San Martín expected that both leaders would attack at the same time, so the royalists would have to fight a battle on two fronts.

San Martín sent his troops down the mountain starting at midnight of the 11th to prepare for an attack at dawn. At dawn, his troops were much closer to the royalists than anticipated, but fought hard. Meanwhile, Soler’s troops had to go down a tiny path that proved long and arduous and took longer than expected. General O’Higgins, supposedly seeing his homeland and being overcome with passion, defied the plan of attack and charged, along with his 1,500. What exactly happened in this part of the battle is fiercely debated. O’Higgins claimed that the royalists stopped their retreat and started advancing towards his troops. He said that if he were to lead his men back up the narrow path and retreat, his men would have been decimated, one by one. San Martín saw O’Higgins premature advance and ordered Soler to charge the royalist flank, which took the pressure off O’Higgins and allowed his troops to hold their ground.

The ensuing firefight lasted into the afternoon. The tide turned for the Army of the Andes as Soler captured a key royalist artillery point. At this point, the royalists set up a defensive square around the Chacabuco Ranch. O’Higgins charged the center of the royalist position, while Soler got into position behind the royalists, effectively cutting off any chance of retreat. O’Higgins and his men overwhelmed the royalist troops. When they attempted to retreat, Soler’s men cut them off and pushed towards the ranch. Hand-to-hand combat ensued in and around the ranch until every royalist soldier was dead or taken captive. 500 royalist soldiers were killed and 600 taken prisoner. The Army of the Andes lost only 12 men in battle, but an additional 120 lost their lives from wounds suffered during the battle. Maroto succeeded in escaping, thanks to the speed of his horse, but was slightly injured.

The remaining royalist troops left Chile and retreated to Lima by ship. Interim governor Francisco Ruiz-Tagle presided at an assembly, which designated San Martín as governor, but he turned down the offer and requested a new assembly, which made O’Higgins Supreme Director of Chile. This marks the beginning of the “Patria Nueva” period in Chile’s history.

Chilean cuisine shares much with South American cuisines, being a mix of indigenous ingredients and cooking methods, and those imported from Spain, overlaid by other European elements.  But it is definitely distinctive.  I’ve been to Santiago many times because it is a hub for local airlines, and I have had frequent long layovers (including one overnight on the way to Easter Island), giving me the chance to sample local specialties.  The typical cazuela of Chile is very popular but it’s pretty ordinary – meat, potato, pumpkin, rice, and corn in a stew.  Let’s go out on a limb.  Here’s caldillo de congrio: conger eel stew, an absolute classic.  I’ll give the recipe in Spanish because I miss speaking Spanish. Hit the translate button if you are challenged.  If you can’t find conger eel you can substitute white fish but, of course, it’s not the same.  This is the simple recipe. More traditionally, a fish stock is prepared first using eel and fish heads, onions, and garlic.  Then it is strained and used as the cooking broth.

Caldillo de Congrio

Ingredients

aciete
1 cebolla cortada en pluma
2 zanahoria pelada y cortadas en rodajas
1 churadita de aji de color
2 tomates cortados en cuarto
1 hoja de laurel
2 rama de perejil
1 pizca de oregano seco
sal y pimiento
gotas de salsa aji
4 medallones de congrio sin piel
1 taza de vino blanco
¼ taza de crema liquida
cilantro

Instructions

En una olla, calendar a fuego medio el aceite. Agregar la cebolla y zanahoria y concinar 10-15min

Agregar el aji de color y revolver mezclar.

Anadir los tomates, hoja de laurel, rama de perejil y oregano y cocinar — 5min.

Sazonar con sal, pimento y gotas de salsa aji.

Anadir los medallones de congrio, vino blanco y agua

Hervir la mezcala, reducer el calor y cocinar 10-20min

Quite la cabeza de pescado de caldo. Saque las mejillas de pescado y añadir

A ultimo momento verter la crema.

Adorne con cilantro.

Jul 252016
 

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Today is Día Nacional de Galicia (“National Day of Galicia”), a public holiday in the autonomous region of Spain. It is also called informally Día da Patria Galega (“Day of the Galician Homeland”), or simply Día de Galicia (“Galicia Day”). The celebration can be traced back to 1919, when the group Irmandades da Fala (a Galicianist organization) met in the Galician capital, Santiago de Compostela. It was then decided to celebrate the National Day on 25 July the following year. The date was chosen as it is the feast day of Saint James, — http://www.bookofdaystales.com/st-james-the-greater/ — patron saint of both Galicia and the Galician capital city.

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Galicia Day was celebrated openly until the Franco dictatorship (1939-1977), when any display of non-Spanish nationalism was prohibited. During that time the National Day was still celebrated by Galician emigrant communities abroad. In Galicia, the Galicianists gathered under the pretext of offering a Mass for Galician poetess and literary icon Rosalia de Castro, and Franco was fine with that. Curiously enough, the Franco regime institutionalized the religious celebration of Saint James as the patron saint of Spain even though his veneration is focused on Galicia.

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From 1968 onwards Galicianists attempted to celebrate the day in Santiago de Compostela, even though they were still under Franco’s dictatorship. The Partido Socialista de Galicia (“Galician Socialist Party”) and the Unión do Povo Galego (“Galician People’s Union”) called for public political demonstrations every 25 July. These demonstrations would invariably result in clashes with the Spanish police. Even during the first years of democracy, after 1977, any demonstration organized by the Asemblea Nacional-Popular Galega and the BN-PG (later transformed into the Galician Nationalist Bloc) was still forbidden. It was only during the mid-1980s that the National Day started to be celebrated again as it had been before Franco. However, the events from the late 1960s onwards had transformed the National Day into an event with political ramifications. The day is now an official public holiday celebrated with solemnity by the Galician government, but also with a number of festivities that take place from the night of the 24th until the early hours of the morning of the 26th.

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Galicia is located in the North-West of the Iberian Peninsula. It was first inhabited by humans during the Middle Paleolithic period, and it takes its name from the Gallaeci, the Celtic people living north of the Douro River during the last millennium BCE. Hence Galicia is part of what is known as the “Celtic fringe” — Western European coastal regions (such as Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, and Ireland)  that are the remnants of a larger European Gallic area that was conquered and assimilated by Romans. Galicia was incorporated into the Roman Empire at the end of the Cantabrian Wars in 19 BCE, and was made a Roman province in the 3rd century CE. Thereafter Galicia has been a part of a succession of empires and kingdoms with a few limited periods of autonomy. Eventually Galicia passed the Statute of Autonomy in 1936 but this was frustrated by Franco’s autocratic government. After democracy was restored, the legislature passed the Statute of Autonomy of 1981, which is still in force, providing Galicia with self-government.

Two languages are official and widely used today in Galicia: native Galician, a Romance language closely related to Portuguese, with which it shares Galician-Portuguese medieval literature, and official Spanish, usually known locally as Castellano (Castilian). 56% of the Galician population speak Galician as their first language, while 43% speak more in Castilian.

Galician cuisine is heavily dominated by seafood, even inland. Polbo á feira is an octopus dish that is favored in Galicia, and you are as likely to find it in the mountains as along the coast. I could give you a seafood recipe, therefore, and there are dozens of them. But I am always reminded of Galicia by its eponymous soup: caldo galego. “Caldo” is Galician/Castilian for “broth” and “galego” means “Galician” (spelled “gallego” in Castilian, and pronounced differently). Often it is simply called “caldo” in Galicia. You’re not going to make a good replica at home, because the soup does not contain anything special. It’s only distinctive when you have it in Galicia made from local ingredients – essence of terroir. At heart it’s a soup made of white beans cooked with ham or pork, with the addition of potatoes, greens, and chorizo, and spiced with paprika. With that knowledge (and a photo), if you are an experienced cook you have all you need to know to make the soup. Every Galician cook has variations of course, and I doubt that any of them follows a recipe, any more than I would. Quantities are not important as long as there is a fair balance.

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Here’s your ingredient list, but bear in mind that you can vary everything:

2 cups dried white beans
1 lb ham knuckle, ham bone, ham hock, or pork bones
salt and pepper
2 tsp Spanish paprika
1 lb potatoes, peeled and diced (not too small)
1 bunch turnip greens, rinsed and coarsely chopped
2 spanish chorizos (6.5 oz total), cut into pieces

First step is the usual for dried beans. Soak the beans overnight in cold water. Next day, drain the beans, put them in a heavy stock pot with the ham or pork, cover with water or light stock, and simmer until the beans are tender (1 to 2 hours).

Remove the ham or pork bones, strip off the meat and return it to the soup, discard the bones.

Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and continue simmering until the potatoes are cooked to your liking.

Serve in deep bowls with crusty bread.