My mother always told me to order clam chowder on a Friday, because that is when it would be freshest, and not to order chili or baked beans in the middle of the week as it would probably be warmed over. I don’t know if that is true, but soup at any time of the week is a heart warming pleasure.
For centuries soup has given sustenance to weary travelers, hungry families, babes in arms and ancient toothless grandmas alike. Soup can’t be eaten with a weapon, so it was one of the first offerings of friendship to a stranger. Sitting around a campfire in the desert, or on a snow-covered mountaintop, it opens and warms the hearts while filling the belly. A bowl of soup can either be a beginning or the complete meal.
During times of need, soup kitchens feed the resident or transient homeless. It’s like a friendly hand up the ladder to make it through another day. You hardly ever see a salad or dessert kitchen, though a dessert kitchen isn’t a bad idea.
Soup strengthens the bonds of friendship as news, gossip and confidences are shared. A soup kettle is bottomless because it holds Love, the most important part of any meal. It is frequently added to, even as it is diminished. The soup spoon is the largest one on the right hand side because it is the first utensil to be used, thus the most important. Soup can’t be eaten with a knife or a fork so there is no misunderstanding as to which implement to pick up.
The weather is cooling, just as the leaves are slowly drifting to the ground, the days are growing shorter, and we close the blinds against the dark. It’s good to smell a pot of soup bubbling on the back of the stove, it’s like a hug around the heart.
We each have our favorite soups of course, and mine is anything which lasts two or three days, because everyone knows soup is better the next day. Chicken soup has long been considered a cure-all for what ails you, and there is some truth in its stand against a head cold.
Several dear people have brought me chicken soup after an unforeseen glitch in health, which was much appreciated. I still have a container belonging to one of them waiting in my garage. I plan to return it to her even if she doesn’t get sick! I have a small stash of plastic bowls etc. belonging to other people; in fact, there are a couple whose ownership escapes me. Perhaps I should simply throw a party and have them go out and help themselves.
I gathered several of my favorite soup recipes this morning for the coming days, and I will be making Sweet Potato-Corn, Potato Leek, Potato Kale and Sausage, Green Chili Pork Posole, Beer Cheese Soup, Split Pea (to use a few pieces of ham in my freezer) and a wonderful Italian Wedding Soup. Those may take me into the winter and even more delicious meals. The homemade bread I make is wonderful lightly toasted and dipped into the broth.
So many soups gravitate from one country to another, and take on slightly different qualities. Matzo ball soup and the Clump Soup of the Danes, is quite similar, although clump isn’t made from matzo meal. Both are served in a flavorful chicken broth, though I like to spike them up with a few pieces of carrot for color.
Sweet Potato and Corn Soup
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 Tbs. butter
saalt to taste
2 lbs. sweet potatoes
2 cups water
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth (I use chicken)
3 cups yellow or white sweet corn kernels
1 medium red bell pepper, finely diced
1 small fresh jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1 cup milk
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of cayenne
2-3 Tbs. cream
Cook the onion slowly in the butter, with a little salt, stirring often, until it is golden brown. At the same time peel and dice the sweet potatoes, combine them in a pot with the water and the broth and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20-30 minutes. Add the carmelized onions to the soup, deglaze the onion pan with a little of the broth and add it back then puree this mixture in batches in a blender.
Return the puree to the pot and add the corn kernels, diced red bell pepper, chopped jalapeno and milk. Simmer until the peppers and corn are tender. Stir in the lemon juice and cayenne, taste and correct the seasoning if needed. Finish the soup with a little cream.
Garnish with coarsely chopped cilantro leaves.