WHEN cold raindrops patter on the roof and drip off the eaves in a steady rhythm, I sometimes put off the cold with Speckie Soup (with dumplings). I pull my shiny soup kettle from the kitchen cupboard and ``consecrate'' both the kettle and the season's storms by boiling up a storm of my own.
The recipe for this soup has been handed down for generations in our family, originating with my grandmother - ``Mother D,'' who was born in Germany and later came to America.
It was my grandfather's favorite dish, and, as often as he could, he coerced his wife (my grandma, or ``Bummy,'' as he called her), and in turn my mother, into making it for him.
But in our house we could have Speckie Soup only when Dad was away at work or on a business trip. He was a devout ``meat-and-potatoes man'' and believed that soup was an inferior meal - to be reserved strictly for those in the family who were under the weather.
The rest of us secretly disagreed. And whenever Grandpa came to visit, Mom would make Speckie Soup for lunch.
It seemed to rain whenever we had Speckie Soup - that dark, bone-chilling Seattle rain.
Our kitchen table was near a sliding-glass door that looked out onto a small patio. When the rain fell long and hard, it would collect on the cement slab in a large glossy puddle.
I loved to stare out that door watching big silvery bubbles glide across the surface of the puddle and eventually burst, while Mom, bent over a steamy kettle, prepared the rich broth for Grandpa's soup.
In the cooking process, something remarkable and unexpected happened to the simple ingredients. Potatoes, onion, bacon, and water were transformed into a rich, creamy, savory broth.
While the soup simmered, Mom would make the Speckie (or dumpling) dough under Grandpa's watchful eye.
Holding the soft, floury dough mass in the palm of her left hand, she would snip off large chunks of the dough with her kitchen shears, letting them drop gently into the simmering stock.
Within a few minutes the speckies would puff and rise to the surface, signaling that the soup was ready to be served.
As soon as the hot soup had been ladled into bowls, Grandpa (who was always very concerned about our well-being) would carry my little sister's bowl of soup out into the chilly air.
Oblivious of the deep puddle and the rain, he would blow on the soup, stirring it like an alchemist - fragrant steam rising to the sky - until the soup was cool enough for a child's palate.
Next, he would collect my bowl of soup and patiently perform the same ritual for me that he had performed for my sister.
When Grandpa was finished with the soup-cooling process, he would step back inside, shaking the rain out of his silvery hair. Cold, damp air lingered about him.
Finally, it was time to eat.
Spoonful after spoonful, we sipped the nourishing broth and sank our teeth deep into the chewy dumplings - warmth flickered through us like fire.
After lunch we were content to sit for hours in our steamy kitchen, listening to the endless plopping of the rain on the rooftop and watching slippery rivulets of water run down the outside of the glass door.
Those fond memories rushed softly through my consciousness not long ago when for the first time in years I tasted Speckie Soup while it rained. Speckie Soup Broth: 2 medium-size potatoes, peeled and diced 6 cups water 3 slices bacon, cut into small pieces 1 medium onion, chopped Speckies (dumplings): 2 eggs 1/2 tsp. salt About 1 cup flour, or enough to make a stiff dough
Peel potatoes, dice. Place in soup kettle and add 6 cups water.
Bring to boil and simmer until tender.
While potatoes are cooking, cut bacon into small pieces and fry until crisp. Lift bacon out of fat and drain on paper towels. Add bacon to potatoes.
Chop onion and saut'e in 2 tbsp. bacon fat. Add onion to soup after it has cooked until transparent. Let soup simmer gently.
To make speckies: Mix eggs with a fork. Add salt and enough flour to form a stiff dough.
With scissors or a knife, cut dough into fairly large chunks (walnut size) and add to soup.
Simmer for about 10 minutes, until speckies are firm. Season soup with salt and freshly grated black pepper.
Serves 3 to 4.