the story of soup

[Guidelines for homemade nourishing soup as requested.]
“Every gumbo tells a story” -John Besh, My New Orleans
All soup can tell a story. I do not use a recipe but a narrative, a theme, I group flavors together according to taste families. Often the family is a geographical region or some other style of cooking, such as “Italian”, Mexican”, “Mediterranean” or “Hippie”. So I cannot provide actual recipes for these 5 nourishing soups but I will cheerfully provide flavor families and guidelines.
For years I hated soup! This was due to working in a diner and watching people make it. Shudder. I think some people see soup as a way to use up leftovers and don’t give it their 100% best effort. But I have come around to the realization that it can be lovely, a good way to stretch meat, to use cheaper cuts of meat and to feed a crowd. I also see it as a a deeply nourishing and comforting food, warming for the long cold winter season here in the Northeast.
The base of all my soup and stew is real broth. Made from bones, carcasses, organs, alliums, and/or fungi. Bone broth is a basic human food which is easy to make and affordable, get a crockpot and just do it. The 2 bone broths I am most likely to make are beef and chicken but really you can use almost anything. Add salt. OK so that is your base.Then you choose your theme. A theme is a way to group flavors together and make the ingredients sing harmoniously. For example, eggplant parmesan and soy sauce don’t go together. Chili and lime does go together. We will discuss French onion soup, Pozole, Pho, Portuguese kale soup and classic Chicken soup.
As you can see, this is an international crowd here, and I should mention that they are not all my traditions. I respectfully share my take on these foods, but they are “in the style of”/inspired by and in NO way are they authentic to their homeland.
I suggest going to small so-called “ethnic” markets and diverse farmer’s markets to find ingredients for cooking. I love small markets and I encourage people of all backgrounds to explore them. However, please be aware that it’s important to be polite and respectful of other people’s traditions and cultures. Never make fun of unusual items that you see there, never ever make jokes aloud about foods or other items you find strange. Keep in mind that you might see something as strange but it may be someone’s valued tradition. Additionally, don’t be a pain in the ass. Noone wants to walk you through what stuff is-buy a cookbook, google it or just buy something and try it for yourself. And finally, I want to address the word “exotic”–it’s a huge peeve for me. Such a relative term! You may not be used to certain ingredients, but that does not make it exotic, weird, or funny. It just means you could stand to get out more.
So first, French onion soup. Wicked cheap. Make beef bone broth. Caramelize as many onions as you can–like, a lot. You can use any alliums here-sweet onions, leeks, shallots, red onions, whole cloves of garlic. Cut them up and roast on low for a few hours (1-3) with butter and salt/pepper. Those 2 items basically make up the whole thing, it sounds simple but it is not, caramelization is a miraculous process by which normal onions a returned into nature’s candy. you could add a little meat, a splash of red wine, fungi, and melty cheese on or not on a piece of bread.
Pho-It is a Vietnamese noodle soup. Let’s talk about beef, but it can be chicken, seafood, pork. Whatever you want. Make the bone broth. I simmer some Southeast Asian spices in the broth but you don’t have to. (for example, star anise, cinnamon, ginger, garlic) I cook the meat or tofu(plus onions) separately and throw the rice or bean thread noodles into the broth at the last minute.The real magic is in the assembly. Scoop out some noodles, ladle a bunch of broth, and pile your cooekd meat on. At the table, you add fish sauce, chili sauce, bean sprouts, jalapeno slices, limes, scallions, thai basil, cilantro, mint, ground peanuts.
This is absolutely to taste and the way YOU like it is the right way!
Pozole is Mexican and it is one of my favorite foods ever. I start with a good broth. Put it to the side. See a theme here? Then I saute garlic and onions, lots, maybe a few peppers, poblano perhaps? or whatever you have. I hate green peppers but you might like them. Here would be a good time to point out that sauteeing is good cooking. I never put liquid in a pot and throw stuff in. I always saute first!!! use butter, lard, olive oil, whatever non-grody oil you like. Put your alliums in and revel in the aromatherapy. then add meat-in this case I like chorizo and/or chicken but you can use whatever you have. I’ll add sweet potatoes, black beans, zucchini, tomatoes, (fire roasted if possible) and of course pozole which is a chubby chewy corn. Add the broth once this has all melded. I also add a shitload of Mexican oregano–this is Lippia graveolens not Origanum vulgare. Yes, you can use whatever oregano you have, just dump tons of it in there. Maybe some cumin.
Again, at the table one makes it custom, you can pile on onions, chili sauce, jalapenos-pickled or raw, crema or sour cream, limes, cilantro, whatever you like. Except soy sauce.
Kale soup-broth is important here too, but not as 100 % vital as the others. Saute garlic, onions, and other alliums if desired.

dino kale ribbons
dino kale ribbons
I really do appreciate truth in advertising.
I really do appreciate truth in advertising.
Pho: you add the stuff in your bowl.
Pho: you add the stuff in your bowl.
Previously roasted Chicken carcasses simmering.
Previously roasted Chicken carcasses simmering.
saute first, add delicious broth second!!
saute first, add delicious broth second!!
then add meat, chorizo works great here too, or a little pork, or some chicken, Whatever. No, I don’t have any “vegan options”, that’s just not my thing. Get a luscious saute going, butter and onions and stuff, and add a ton of kale. I am a huge fan of dino kale but I’m not gonna tell you what kind of kale to eat. It’s ideal if you cut it into ribbons. Add potatoes, white beans, maybe some zucchini? And then broth, hopefully good broth. My kids like it when I put little star-shaped pasta in there but by no means do you have to do so. Simmer it for as long as you can stand to wait. It’s extra good with swiss cheese melted on it.
And finally, chicken soup. All hail chicken soup!! Honestly, to me it’s a vehicle for gelatinous goo and piles of garlic. That gelatinous goo lubes your joints and makes your hair shiny. So at the risk of sounding like a broken record, saute a bunch of garlic and onions in butter or some other greasy stuff. Add vegetables such as celery, carrots, rutabagas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, leeks, and/or cucumbers. (not really.) I like a tiny bit of tomato in there. If you’re wicked fancy this would be a good place for dumplings or matzo balls but any kind of noodle or rice is fine. If you’re Paleo, add some kinda lardballs. Season to taste with salt and pepper, maybe some herbes de provence or something, hopefully you know what you like. If you’re ill you might want to use extra antimicrobial stuff here such as oregano, thyme, lemon thyme, monarda, rosemary, and so forth. You can also use the base and switch it up to be Italian-ish(more tomatoes, more oregano, tortellini), Mexican-ish (add black beans, cumin, spicy stuff), vaguely Asian-ish (add ginger, soy sauce, scallions).

2 thoughts on “the story of soup

  1. Excellent post. I’ll never get over how cool it is that some bones and onions and little this ‘n’ that can make the best meal.

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