Peel-a-Pound Soup

Peel-a-Pound Soup

From Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul

Peel-a-Pound Soup

Never eat more than you can lift.

Miss Piggy

The year was November 1975. Lynne and I were stationed at the American Embassy in Mexico City, and it was several weeks before the evening of the Marine Ball. This was THE most important social function of the year.

My army dress blues and Lynne’s black formal were cloaked in plastic hanging in the closet. For some reason she’d decided to “try it on” that afternoon. Lynne looked great in black, and she would always turn a lot of heads at that formal event. Iwas very proud ofmywife and she knew it. When she came out of the bedroom in that slinky formal and asked how she looked, it must have surprised her when I said (jokingly, mind you), “Just a tad bit chunky, dear.”


Now in all honesty, I’d been sitting in the recliner half asleep while watching TV, so I wasn’t alert to the possible ramifications of my remark; however, her tone of voice snapped me completely awake. “What do you mean . . . CHUNKY?”

“Uh . . . um, well, it just seems a little snug in the hips is all. Actually it looks fine, dear.”

Her normally soft blue eyes glared menacingly, piercing me like an insect specimen impaled on a pin. There was no way I’d get out of this easily. It turned out I didn’t have to . . . well, that’s not entirely true.

The following evening I walked in the door to be met with a horrendous smell that put my olfactory senses on high alert. Lynne was in the kitchen stirring a large pot of soup. She looked up, smiling sweetly. “Hello, dear. Have a good day?” I simply nodded; relieved that apparently I was forgiven for my faux pas of the afternoon before.

“What’s in the pot?” I asked, fearing her answer. As I suspected, she replied with “dinner.” I stood with my mouth agape as she stirred the concoction a few more times before looking up at me and saying, “It’s called Peel-a-Pound Soup. It’s very filling, and since you’ve decided I’m a bit CHUNKY, I’m going on a diet. Julie gave me the recipe,” she said as she handed me a slip of paper. I stood there and read the neat printing of Lynne’s best friend.

A large can of V-8 juice, a large can of tomatoes, an entire stalk of celery, six onions, one head of cabbage, one grated carrot, and just a pinch of salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. Boil it all up and eat as much as you want.

“But Julie must weigh 165 pounds, Lynne,” I protested. “She hasn’t lost an ounce since we’ve known her.”

Lynne nodded, “Julie and I are starting this diet today.”

I thought for a moment, then gathered my courage. “No dear,” I replied magnanimously, “WE’RE going on this diet today. After all, if I hadn’t made that stupid remark . . .” I let the sentence trail off in an attempt to gain some sympathy that I knew beforehand would not be forthcoming. I was right. She set the ladle down and gave me a big hug.

“That’s so SWEET of you, darling, but YOU don’t have to, you know. YOU don’t NEED this diet. You’re not . . . CHUNKY!”


Now I’m a “meat and potatoes” kinda guy, and as I took my first taste of this soup, I wished I was back to eating C rations in the field. The stuff was awful, but if this was what she wanted, so be it. It was the least I could do to make up for criticizing her looks. Since digestion of this soup is supposed to consume more calories than it contains, it couldn’t take long until she lost the maybe five pounds it would take to make her feel comfy again. How long could this last? A couple of days at the most? Knowing her the way I did, I figured she’d get tired of this very soon, especially since it was a morning, noon and nighttime drill. In the meantime I’d grab a few rolls for breakfast at work, then eat a hearty lunch and late-afternoon snack at the restaurant next door to the embassy and wouldn’t have to consume much of this god-awful concoction at home. Just enough to let her know she had my support. Anyway, that was The Plan.

The thing is, I felt guilty doing it, knowing my wife was at home eating that horrible soup while I pigged out on sweet rolls for breakfast and enchiladas for lunch. The little devil on my left shoulder whispered in my ear that it was her decision. I didn’t need to lose weight, did I? Of course not! But the little angel on my right shoulder whispered that this entire situation was my fault. After all, I just needed to eat one meal of the stuff while Lynne had to choke down three of them.

Seven days and a loss of eight pounds later the diet was over. I knew it the day Lynne greeted me at our door dressed in her black formal and high heels, with the diamond pendant that I’d given her on our anniversary two years ago adorning her neck. “See?” she said, beaming, “it worked.” She turned around slowly and I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was to be married to such a beautiful woman.

That night we celebrated with dinner at a fancy restaurant and an evening of dancing. Both of us turned down the soup course.

Gary Luerding

Anytime Soup


1 pound chicken parts or soup bones

½ head shredded green cabbage

1 minced garlic clove

2 chopped celery stalks

2 pounds diced fresh tomatoes

3 chopped carrots

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

½ teaspoon dried thyme (optional)

½ teaspoon dried basil (optional)

freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 cups low-sodium chicken stock, or 4 cups water

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

In a large heavy-bottomed soup pot, bring all the ingredients except lemon juice or vinegar to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 1 hour. Remove chicken parts or soup bones. Shred chicken and return to pot. Add lemon juice or vinegar. Taste, and adjust seasonings.

Reprinted from The Schwarzbein Principle Cookbook. ©1999 Diana Schwarzbein, M.D., Nancy Deville and Evelyn Jacob. Health Communications, Inc.

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