The Hundred-Year-Old’s Potato Soup Legacy

I really did mean to write the title that way. Today’s blog isn’t about a potato soup recipe that’s 100 years old. It’s about a potato soup recipe I inherited from a 100-year-old woman. (She was actually 102 at the time, but I like round numbers.)

Laurel lived across the street from a couple of kids I used to babysit when I was a teenager. My mom loves old people, loved visiting her, and they became close friends. My parents even have a giant painting of Laurel hanging in their bedroom. Interesting point of trivia, the painting was made by the same artist who was commissioned by Jerry Garcia’s family to create this iconic painting after his death:


Laurel – copyright Frank Balaam

Jerry Garcia

Jerry Garcia – copyright Frank Balaam

As you can see, Laurel looked every bit the part of sweet and frail grandmother. However, her thinning skin and tin-rimmed glasses were a total cover-up: She was a firecracker. I remember sitting on her little floral sofa in her little white corner-property house and wondering how on earth she could still live alone at her age. But she did. And she’d even try to wait on me.

With Laurel being nearly deaf as a post, we had to practically scream at her when we talked. The hoarseness was worth it. Oh, the stories she’d tell! Laurel grew up in a little mining town in the Southwest. Clear as day, she could remember seeing covered wagons come down Main Street. She said most white people back then were afraid of the Native Americans—she called them Indians—but swore they didn’t scare her one lick. She’d look them right in the eye and smile. One day she told me about the red-light district. A red-light district! I had to look it up in a dictionary when I got home that day. What a faraway time she came from. We’re talking saloons, public tree-hangings, and whorehouses. Laurel was this sweet, amazing time capsule. She loved my mom a lot, which is why our family inherited her “secret” potato recipe after she died at age 108. It’s simple, one of our staple holiday dishes, one of my favorite ways to feed my family, and one of a handful of beloved recipes I intend to hand down to my kids.

Laurel’s Potato Soup

8 slices bacon, cut into bite sizes

2-3 finely chopped carrots

½ diced onion (optional)

4 potatoes, sliced thin and quartered

1 can condensed milk

Fresh milk

1 T. butter


Fry bacon and pour out grease. Add the carrots, optional onions, potatoes, and a little water. Cook and stir until soft. Add condensed milk and some fresh milk along with butter. Stir and heat through.


4 thoughts on “The Hundred-Year-Old’s Potato Soup Legacy

  1. Laurel was a wonderful part of our family, we were the parents of the kids across the street. We met her when we moved in and found out she was 94 at the time, and I just assumed we would not know her for long. I tell that story frequently to 90+ people I meet, because I beelieve that the next fourteen years before she passed away included some of the best years of her life. She was a grandmother to our children and she was great. It is good to hear she meant as much to the others that came into her life.

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