A Beautiful Bowl of Soup
Paulette Mitchell and William Meppem, 2003
I don't know whether this is coincidence or indicative of something
about the modern restaurant industry, but a while back I had a string
of restaurant visits which went something like this: (1) try the soup;
(2) think, "holy crow this is going to be the Best Restaurant Ever";
(3) eat the rest of the meal; (4) think, "oh, well, at least the soup
Good restaurant soup is a totally different species from canned soup.
What has surprised me recently is that the soups I make at home (making
my own stock and so forth) are much closer to the former than the latter.
It's funny, because I never know how good it's going to be until the last
step, adding salt — salt brings out the flavor, and so adding it is
like opening a present. There've been times that I've been making a soup,
added the salt, taken a sip, been disappointed, and tried a little more
salt. Sometimes that just makes it saltier. But sometimes I suddenly
discover that I have made one of the best soups in human history.
Both things happened after I checked A Beautiful Bowl of Soup out
of the library. This is a book of sixty or so vegetarian soup recipes;
I'd had my eye on it for quite a while, so I jumped at the chance to give
it a try for free. The first two soups I made were both sensational.
I happened to try a dessert soup first, a concoction of strawberries,
rhubarb, and orange juice, and after the suggested accompaniment of
lemon sorbet didn't work out very well I tried vanilla ice cream and
marveled at the deliciousness. But even that soup paled in comparison
to the onion soup, which may well be the best soup I have even eaten.
Certainly it was the best I have ever made. So naturally I bought the
The soups I've made since then have been a mixed bag:
- cream of tomato with puff pastry: decent, but my own tomato soup
recipe is better
- roasted bell pepper with lemon vinaigrette: tasted like potatoes
and little else, but that's probably my fault
- fresh pea with parmesan cream: very good!
- sweet potato ancho bisque with apple-pecan salsa and roasted red pepper
cream: not very good... kind of bitter
- wild rice cranberry: interesting for a few spoonfuls, but couldn't
take any more
- broccoli cheese: I've had much better versions
- red lentil and bean: good, but not very memorable
I figure that even one really good recipe makes most cookbooks worth their
purchase price. I've found three excellent soups already and still have many
more left to try. So basically what I'm saying is YOU WANT THE SOUP.
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