Sunday, September 16, 2007

PART II: IN THE FALL, AN OLD GIRL'S FANCY TURNS TO...SOUP


I mentioned in my previous post that I had soup in a bread bowl during the street fair on Saturday. I had chicken tortilla soup, with big nice chucks of white meat chicken, but I could have chosen beer cheese soup or wild rice soup. What a dilemma! As I like them all, it was hard to pick just one. This year, they even furnished pieces of bread for dipping, as it is a little hard and messy to wrest soup-soaked bread from the top and insides of the bowl. It was nummy.
I have become a real soup aficionado lately. Now that it's fall, I want to have heartier food, and soup really fits the bill. It seems I must have soup for every lunch, either by itself or with a sandwich.
There's a local market that offers a half dozen freshly-made, takeout soups each day. Talk about being difficult to choose just one. Saturday before last was cold and rainy, and I was wet when I got to the market. No wonder I chose two soups - a small cup to consume with a plastic spoon right in my car with the heater blowing warm air, and a larger cup of chicken tortilla to bring home for later. My "breakfast" soup was new to me, a lovely hamburger "chowder" with cheese and thinly-sliced potatoes. I liked it way better than New England or Manhattan clam chowder, which are among the few soups I can pass up.
What I can't pass up: The aforementioned soups; broccoli cheese, cauliflower cheese or California Medley cheese soups; beef noodle or beef barley soup; chicken vegetable soup (preferably homemade but I'll take the "homemade" canned); and vegetable beef soup. The Wood House Restaurant in Bismarck makes the best vegetable beef in town. It has wonderful big chunks of beef and a savory base, and they cook the soup so long that I can actually eat the carrots and green beans.
My little brother, Ronnie, so loved my Grandma's potato soup that he would eat three or more bowls at one time. Grandma always said Ronnie had a hollow leg to hold all that soup. I myself had a great bacon and potato soup with vegetables the other day.
I must mention the Munro Family's homemade chicken soup. My Grandma and mom made - and now my sister carries on the tradition of - making the best chicken soup in the world, with homemade, gnarly fat noodles. I remember so well Grandma cutting the noodles and placing them on chair backs to "cure". My sister has actually found store-bought noodles that are just as good, and she buys chicken breasts instead of roasting a chicken, but her soup is as good as Mom's and Grandma's because the stock is exactly like theirs, and that is the secret.
Bismarck is the "capital" of knoephle soup, which is supposedly a potato and dumpling soup in a chicken stock base. Several Bismarck eateries claim to have the best knoephle soup, but I find each wanting. The "dumplings" are actually just clumps of gummy dough. The best knoephle soup, in my opinion, was made by The Drumstick Cafe, which is now closed. That knoephle soup had real dumplings, and a delicious creamy herbed base.
It takes living in Bismarck to be a connoisseur of knoephle soup, as well as borscht soup. I resisted tasting borscht for years, thinking it was a red soup made with pickled beets. I finally learned it is more like a vegetable soup, and Dakota Farms Restaurant in Mandan makes a wonderful borscht. Another Mandan restaurant makes a borscht with a creamy pink base but I could not wrap my mind around eating pink soup the one and only time I ordered it.
Speaking of colored soups, I have never tasted vichyssoise, which I imagine to be green but perhaps is not.
Some soups are best left to restaurants. In my early marriage, I actually made a homemade French onion soup (I was a much more adventurous cook in my early wedded years.) I could not believe how much work that soup is. Later, my husband and I liked Cross and Blackwell's French onion soup, to which we added a layer of croutons and Swiss cheese. Now that our local stores have stopped stocking this soup, I have it only at restaurants. Oh, that wonderful melted cheese topping that strings out from you spoon as you lift the spoon to your mouth!
And Chinese soups, naturally, are best in restaurants. I can readily pass up won ton soup. I like egg drop soup for its flavor but not for its looks. But consomme soup is exquisite, with its green onions and beef consomme flavor, with a bunch of hard noodles thrown in. Like in the Goldilocks story, the noodles, when ready to eat with the soup, can't be too hard or too soft, but just right.
In our family, along with 7-Up, Lipton's dry mix chicken noodle soup was our comfort food when anyone was sick with cold or a flu. I sent packets of this soup to Kristen when she was going to school in France, and I think it is the only soup she eats today. I prefer the variety with diced chicken; she likes the extra noodle. I'll often have this soup for breakfast Saturday morning, with the doggies sharing soup-soaked saltines.
You'll notice that I have mentioned soup for breakfast twice now. You may think I am off my nutter. My Mom served pancakes or bacon and eggs, not soup, for breakfast. But I'll never forget the time I stayed with my two farm girl friends/sisters from school. Charlotte and Lenore. Their mom served us soup for breakfast. I must have looked askance at her, as she explained to me that she wanted to give her children a really hearty, stick-to-your ribs breakfast for their long bus ride, school day and return trip.
A wonderful cold weather meal when you have worked a long hard day and don't feel like cooking an elaborate meal is tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Where can you find a more perfect duo? My husband sometimes adds ham to the grilled cheese sandwiches to make it an even heartier meal.
Campbell's soups, like the chicken noodle soup, chicken vegetable soup and tomato soup were staples in our home when I was growing up. We had tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches on Christmas Eve, my savvy mom knowing it was an easy meal that us kids would readily eat, as eager as we were to open Christmas gifts. After we kids grew up, my mom discovered a wonderful salmon, corn and bacon chowder that I salivate over just thinking about.
Some soups, like the above-mentioned clam chowder, just don't ring my chimes. I remember the homemade tomato soup with stewed tomatoes floating in hot milk that my friends' moms used to make. Yuck times two. Bean and bacon and bean and ham soups are OK, but rather bland.
Cream of chicken soup? Okay, but best left to cooking, in my opinion. And who could eat Lipton French Onion Soup as a soup? Only in recipes, I say. Cream of mushroom soup? Gack! I always substitute cream of chicken in a recipe. I really dislike this soup, and mushrooms in general, and had to check with my friends' moms to make sure they weren't serving mushroom soup when I was invited to dinner or supper.
There are new soups out there to be tried. The market recently had a great looking tomato basil ravioli soup that looked just fabulous.

5 comments:

miss*R said...

I love soup - but nothing beats my nan's Beef & barley soup!
I had cheese soup in a bread bowl when I was in Pennsylvania a few years ago and it was delicious.. yes, nothing like a yummy soup on a cold day!

nonizamboni said...

I'm starving now after reading this wonderful post! It was really fun to see your 'soup' history unfold. My dad's idea of chicken soup was to boil the heck out of a stewing hen and throw in a carrot or two. We traditionally made clam chowder on Christmas Eve but tomato soup & grilled cheese rules! I found Poland's Best brand of condensed soups at Cubthat are tasty -- Buckwheat & Bean.
Thanks for sharing!

PEA said...

Now you've got me hungry for soup!! I remember when we were kids, mom would make us Campbell's Tomato soup and would add crushed soda crackers to it while it was cooking so that it was nice and thick and very filling. She would also use milk instead of water. To this day I still love it that way. I won't eat cold soups...to me, it has to be hot or it's not a soup! lol I'm really not a big eater of soup but give me a bowl of chili and I'll be happy!! xox

lila said...

I'm afraid my creativity comes out in my soup making too! I seldom make any soup the same way twice.
I love to eat soup in Thai restaurants...usually they use a chicken broth and coconut milk base!
My grandmother made homemade noodles using cream and egg yolks! I remember her rolling them out, cutting into ribbons and drying a bit before they went into the soup!
Delicious!!!

Anonymous said...

Make your own onion soup-slice 4 large onions to taste--saute in a stick of real butter till ready... pour in 1 can Campbells beef consume, 1 can boullion...simmer to reduce...a dash of sherry is optional...devine with garnish of cheese etc