I didn’t used to get excited about soup. I liked it on occasion, but once I had a cup or bowl, I was done for a while. I never really knew why I felt that way about soup, now I think I do. I can’t wolf soup. No matter what cutesy way any company might package it (don’t get me started on those “grab ‘n’ go” microwave atrocities), it will not be rushed. A good soup will not be rushed on the stovetop and it won’t be rushed at the table. Now that I have slowed my daily pace, soup fits right in.
I really enjoy lingering over the process, starting with fresh trinity. Some folks swear by the ‘cookie smell’ or the ‘cake aroma’ (think real estate people – you know who you are) but for me, melt butter in a dutch oven, drop in the chopped onion and that is it. After you’ve made a few batches it seems as if the soup tells you how to make it. It’s from the old world, left-overs born anew. It’s never hard work and if it is, well, that’s the only way to screw it up.
Last night we were invited to a dinner with friends. Anytime Al and his lovely wife Jonne invite us for dinner we always say “YES!”, then check with our spouse to make sure we cancel whatever was already on the book. Al does the cooking and the wine pouring, a fellow extrovert when it comes to food and literature. I peer over Al’s shoulder and kibitz as he cooks. Jonne and Laurie function as keel and rudder, making sure the boys don’t run the ship aground. We are never concerned about what we might talk about – there are always a thousand loose ends in our lives to catch up on.
I am setting the scene, hopefully a common one for you. Good friends who work their way through the day just like us – punching in and out, navigating the obstacles, keeping family safe, warm and happy. Two full time jobs to be sure. Just when you feel there might be no time for luxury – a night opens up. So when Laurie and I are invited to a friend’s house for dinner we know what a privilege that is, and when Al is on the range, we go.
Back to soup. The starter for our meal was Ribollita or bread soup. Al confessed he took this recipe from the wonderful book “An Everlasting Meal” by Tamar Adler. A true midwinter soup, it uses what is ‘on hand’ and uses up your stale bread. The bread becomes the thickener in the soup and it requires time to meld. I was at peace after the first spoonful.
If you feel stressed I have the perfect remedy. Turn off all of your technology, put on some quiet music and get thee to a stovery. Linger over the low simmering soup pot as you sip wine and stir (I recommend that you accidentally splash some wine into the broth as you stir). In 45 minutes you’ll wonder what the heck you were all stressed about. ~TH~