But loving soup also comes from remembering. When a child, the soup making rituals of my mother and grandmother spanned days. Inventive and frugal cooks, they used everything- whether fresh or left over. And I do mean everything. To these two, throwing away a turkey carcass was considered a sin. But let’s say the week’s selection is beef vegetable. First visit the market for the necessary soup fixins’. Purchase the perfect ratio of protein to fat - tender pink meat suspended off white curved bone wrapped in crisp, white butcher paper. Home to fill a large stock pot with water, just enough to cover the meat, sprinkle in salt and pepper, add parsley, a carrot or two, one onion, several celery stalks with leaves. Combine in a gentle rolling boil for hours. In the county or city, the promising steam filled up the kitchen spaces, escaping throughout the rooms. But it wasn’t soup yet, not until the meat “fell off the bone.” Then store the stock in the refrigerator overnight for the settling and next day fat removal. Expert carvers, Mama and Mimi, broke slick brittle slabs, thin and white, cold as ice slivers, and skimmed the top, leaving a rich base of flavorful broth and tender morsels of meat. Next the final stages: slice more carrots, onions, celery, sometimes parsnips or turnips, canned summer tomatoes, and simmer until just tender. Garnish with tiny peas popped in the end. How I loved this hearty soup, perfect for winter evenings, served in delicate bowls, partnered with thick slices of homemade bread, slabbed with yellow butter.
When homemade wasn’t available, there was the Campbell’s variety, the bright red and white labels assurances of good things to come: alphabet soup, my early favorite, its tiny symmetrical squares of vegetables a marvel, perfect for the lunchbox thermos, comforting chicken noodle housed in a big steamy mug, or tomato - a ruddy orange wonder cupped in a low bowl, a grilled pimento cheese sandwich alongside, to this day, my youngest daughter’s comfort food. Even my gourmet mother-in-law succumbed to tomato, teaching me to blend water with milk for a softer more mellow tomato version. To this day, my military career uncle faithfully observes his lunching routine of a can of Campbell’s and a sandwich. Soup just satisfies.
When my girls were little, we experimented with soups: tortellini in broth with sausage, crisp cream of celery, or an old-fashioned Brunswick stew. As they’ve grown and become cooks themselves, our tastes lean more to a spicy black bean version topped with avocado, a chunky minestrone, or a tangy Mediterranean fish stew. But whatever the occasion, pleasure and comfort may be found in “Soup’s on” and a bowl of goodness.
And in case you’re wondering, tonight’s menu: potato leek.