Few things are more comforting on a cold winter evening than a bowl of hot, delicious soup.
Toby took the rib bones from our Christmas roast, added an array of vegetables, and simmered for two days to make a wonderful winter soup – which, with a loaf of crusty bread, made a satisfying evening meal. But, as her many friends will attest, her kitchen delights include soups of many varieties. When we were raising four growing boys here, soups were a mainstay. As I stared into my second bowl of soup last night, as with Proust and his madeleine fantasies, my thoughts went back in time.
Both Toby and I had spent individual time in Europe years ago, she on a $5-a-day budget and I, serving in the US Air Force. Soups were the most affordable and available meal in 1950s and 1960s Europe and the Middle East as these areas were still recovering from WWII.
Kartoffelsuppe in Germany, minestrone in Italy, avgolemono in Greece, lapskaus in Norway – real survival food, though some of it was to be an acquired taste. Later travels for me brought me to Havana where an almost entirely meatless diet had caused gazpacho – though mostly a cold soup – to move well up into expensive tourist fare.
Then, memories of some wonderful, but long gone, West Hollywood sources of soup. Mildred Pierce, a very small space once occupying part of the first floor of the building on the NE corner of Dorrington and Robertson, was an inspired “soup kitchen” of the highest order. Its only offering was soup – the menu changed every two days. Of course, there was Ed’s, where soup was always kept hot on the stove. And, down the street was Il Piccolino, which had mastered French onion soup as well as some fish chowders.
My thoughts were now wide-ranging, and I recalled the aromas of Brandy Peter’s ‘yesterday’s scotch broth.’ That was a nondescript, no-sign restaurant on Washington Street in Boston, kept alive by the excessive drinking habits of the inhabitants of newspaper row. Peter’s idea of a martini was a 12-ounce water glass filled to the top with three olives. Finally, during my stint as a seaman at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, how two successive days of soup served aboard the former Atlantis signaled the end of other foods and a return to port.
Chili is technically not soup, but I file it under that title. One evening in the distant past – and there may be a few who remember the event – following a CERT graduation, all trooped to my house where Toby had prepared a large pot of chili. Our local contingent of LA Fire came along with two rigs and its brand new, $300,000 multi-purpose unit, which took up a third of the block, bringing most of our neighbors out of their homes to look. We did not reason with the hearty appetites of our firefighters, and we ran out quickly – but not before Chief Yee was able to get seconds. RHIP.
Soup is easy to make, enjoyable by oneself or with friends. More soup.