By: Patricia Solley
“Little is nobler than presiding over a kettle of homemade soup.”
This is a cookbook you will likely read in most any room in addition to your kitchen — hearty and stirring tales of 100 soups for more than 40 worldwide occasions …
Solley invites us to “look at a bowl of soup and see the evolution of foods created in remote locations over thousands and thousands of years, made into recipes passed from hand to hand, transported on the backs of Indian, Asian and Arab traders, Roman soldiers and European explorers all the way to your supermarket.” Soup as an indicator is underscored when Solley invites us to regard the recipes, and at the same time think upon different cultures with personalized celebrations, their sacredness of family intimacy and rites of passage.
An Exaltation of Soups is divided into four parts peppered with marginal Soup Notes containing riddles, quotes, wives’ tales, advice, lyrics, sound wisdom and cautionary maxims. Not surprising, her six pages of Contents runs longer than her remarkably concise History of Soup.
Soup Basics containing soup history, proverbs, reflections and some very complete directions and for soup stocks, including the history of and directions for portable Pocket Soup, soup sometimes known as Veal Glue or Cake Soup.
In Soup Reflections, she cites an anecdote from Winston Churchill’s soup humor:
“Well, dinner would have been splendid if the wine had been as cold as the soup, the beef as rare as the service, the brandy as old as the fish and the maid as willing as the Dutchess.”
Soups of Passage celebrate worldwide cultural experiences from birth to marriage and finally, death.
Soups of Purpose from Losing Weight to Stimulating Appetite, Wooing a Lover to Treating Hangover.
Soups of Piety and Ritual
These take you through the entire calendar and to many civilizations from New Year’s Day to year’s end and Kwanzaa.
On Birth from France: “Boiled Water” Garlic Soup. This is simply French bread, olive oil, water, 24 cloves of garlic, a couple of herbs and a garnished of Gruyere cheese. With a couple of exceptions, Soups To Celebrate and Recover From Giving Birth “are offered in small ’at home’ portions, meant to be prepared quickly and served immediately,” Solley tells us.
On Marriage from China: Red Bean and Lotus Seed Soup – even simpler, this ceremonial soup calls for water, red beans, lotus seeds, tangerine skin and brown sugar. Simple is good.
On Marriage again, from France: Blandness has its virtue. Take water, many onions, a few potatoes, tapioca, an egg yolk, heavy cream and butter. This also sounds after a day of extreme stress.
Upon death, from France: Combine French bread, chicken meat, carrots, chicken stock and ground saffron.
In her Soups of Purpose section under To Lose Weight, she offers a few soup admonitions:
Eat soup at the beginning of a meal. Makes you feel full early.
Soup fools the body’s calorie sensors. This is good.
Soup as food is less voluminous.
Soup is complicated to eat and takes more motor skills
Another Soup of Purpose: To stimulate an appetite — Avocadolucious Soup Combine chicken stock, heavy cream a chile pepper and garlic. Mix with pureed avocados, experiment with garnishes.
Soups for wooing lovers: Aphrodisiac Almond Soup (for two):
Combine hard-boiled egg yolks, almonds, raspberries, chicken stock, light cream and honey. Solley offers Christopher Marlowe’s, “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love,” on the facing page.
Soups to Chase a Hangover, and there’s very, many remedies –
Beer Soup from Denmark: Take some pumpernickel bread, Danish dark ale, water, lemon juice and sugar. Garnish with heavy cream, cinnamon.
Soups for Eastertide, this one from Albania: Bean Soup: This calls for white beans, water, olive oil, onions, tomato paste, parsley, chili powder, mint and whipped yogurt as a garnish.
From Hungary, a Christmas Wine Soup: A goodly amount of white Hungarian wine, much less water, sugar, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks and eight egg yolks. This is a hot soup.
Another Christmas soup from Spain: Iced White Almond Soup – Combine white bread, raw almonds, garlic, salt, olive oil and sherry vinegar with fruit, shrimp or toasted almonds for garnish. The author quotes “Sancho Panza on Soup and Life,” on the opposite flip page.
Soups need not be long litanies of ingredients, nor a “mix of leftovers.” The legendary soups in this book feature soups locally famed, usually very simple, inherently delicious, frequently endowed with magical powers.
Solley seems onto something … you can visit her at: www.SoupSong.com.