Love Soup, by James Beard Award winner Anna Thomas (author of the seminal 70s The Vegetarian Epicure) is my winter cookbook/bible. These 160 vegetarian recipes can get me through November to March with root vegetables.
Thomas writes from California, where the climate is ever so slightly more awesome than Baltimore in November — like, she can pick citrus from her garden and cilantro — so I feel a little, you know, less than. But I haven’t let it impede puree of carrot and yam with citrus and spices. It was fabulous. To include the rind of one orange? Genius. That’s what I’m talking about: some Moroccan spices.
Soup, as my family knows, is my way of securing them to me. I love them up through the ladle. The bands that bind are swirls of sour cream on top of Hungarian mushroom soup with lots of paprika. I can’t screw up soup. And my family will be so dear as to loudly tell you of my failings – screwed up roast chicken, chicken Kiev, rubbery shrimp scampi, homemade “no knead” bread that turned out like a brick. However, with soup I am a success. With soup people like me, and gosh darnit, I like myself.
Soup represents all good things when I am hard pressed to find good things. It’s warm. (There are those who like cold soups, but I am not one of them). It’s soft on the palate; it has good “mouth feel.” It is nourishing without complications, old fashioned, unpretentious: cranberry bean stew. I like to imagine we look like a Dutch Old Master painting, “Soup With Gathered Family” the buttery light coming in at a sunset angle illuminating our cheeks puffed out as we blow lightly on our spoons to cool off the corn and cheese chowder I’ve just made.