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Welcome to WFAEats — a fun adventure where we explore all things tasty and interesting in the Charlotte food scene. We want to share stories, recipes and culinary escapades and hear about yours!

A Birthday Wish With 'Mussel': A Daughter's Tribute

Courtesy Dan Saul

The “Soup’s on at the Soup Kitchen” blog began in 2010, when my then-75-year-old dad started posting recipes. To date, he’s posted over 2,700 entries. His blog is short on commentary; it’s more of a log of the recipes he has handcrafted for the soup kitchen on Whidbey Island in the Pacific Northwest, where he has volunteered for over a decade. It includes home-cooked meals he made for my Mom, family and friends; including Mom’s garden club and book group members, dinner club friends, neighbors, and his nephew’s Christmas tree farm crew. In January, Whidbey Island’s first Slow Food cooking workshop featured Dad’s Stone Soup recipe.

My Dad’s role in the kitchen has evolved over the decades. He’s become the primary home cook (with my mom’s encouragement), soup kitchen chef, Thai cooking teacher (with friend Bob at the South Whidbey Community School) – and a food blogger.

He always brings a lot of enthusiasm to the kitchen but exotic recipes became his passion. This meant feeding and introducing everyone to new foods, flavors, and recipes.

As foodies discovered the appeal of Thai food, Dad was already cooking – at home – the delicious food of the Far East. He was using galangal (Kha) and kaffir lime leaves (Bai Makrut) in his kitchen when most of us were still discovering the offerings of a new and trendy neighborhood Thai restaurant.

Dad often enlists the participation of anyone in ear-shot. He has shared his soup kitchen work with my sons and introduced both boys to a range of off-the-beaten-path-eating. It wasn’t a surprise when I learned my son, Bradley, wanted his eggs cooked “like Grandpa cooked them!” Eggs seem like an easy production but it is not easy to replicate Dad’s enthusiasm, process, and results, as my sons will attest.

The Saul family food story includes tradition but, like most families, varies the theme enough to stamp it with our own flavor. In our family, preparing and eating the meal includes a wide circle of  friends and family, animated interaction, traditional and exotic offerings, enthusiastic consumption; and most of all Chef Dan’s direction, methodology, and vocal seal of approval: “Hallelujah!”

This month he will turn 82 years old.

Try a recipe or two from Dan's blog, Soup’s On at the Soup Kitchen.

 Dan Saul’s Competition Sweet-Sour Thai Mussels

(Two-time winner of the Penn Cove Mussel Festival recipe contest)

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons minced ginger

1 Thai chili pepper, sliced

1 can coconut milk

1 1/2 pounds fresh Penn Cove mussels


1 cup rice vinegar

2/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons hot chili flakes

2 tablespoons fish sauce

Sweet-Sour Chili Sauce: Cook this ahead of time. In a 1-quart pan, mix rice vinegar, sugar, minced garlic, hot chili flakes and fish sauce. Stir the mixture occasionally, over high heat, until the mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup, about 12 minutes.

Mussels: In a dry 2-quart pot, toast the sliced Thai peppers until the seeds pop. Add the garlic and ginger for about 2 minutes. Add sweet-sour sauce and blend. Add the coconut milk. Bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover pot with lid, and cook until the mussels open.

Serves 2 to 3

Tanya J. Saul teaches English as a second language in Charlotte and, in the family tradition, dedicates a lot of time to preparing meals at home, tweaking recipes, and searching for the best eating Charlotte has to offer.