Monday, January 12, 2015

Why Soup?

My old cooking stov

I inherited the “Student’s Manual in Household Arts – FOOD AND COOKERY” published in 1915.  It belonged to my dad’s oldest sister, Fern Shenk.  Aunt Fern was born in 1888, never married and taught school. She used this book in the classroom. 

The book is designed to teach young girls the art of homemaking and much of it could be used today.  Take out how to clean and light a coal or wood cook stove, it’s chocked full of practical advice for all kinds of household chores no matter whose shoulders it falls on today.

Because it’s soup weather, I thought you’d enjoy some information from the “Exercise V - Creamed Soups”.  So much of early cooking had to do with using what was available, how to use all parts of plants and animals and how to keep things from spoiling.

My Grandma's Hoosier cabinet 
Soup not only tastes good, it’s economical by stretching the supply of meat and vegetables, it contains a lot of nourishment and is easily digested.

The point of creamed soup:

It used the tough and indigestible parts of vegetables, which were later, strained out, leaving the bits of tender portions and nutrients.  The old “waste not – want not” adage.   After storing vegetables in the basement larder, they began to be less than prime as winter progressed.

Vegetables were preserved according to their type.  Root vegetables were kept cool and picked over regularly to make sure anything rotting was removed promptly.  Many vegetables, fruits and meats were either fermented or canned in jars.  Still others were dried.

Food storage
Realize in this era, the most up to date refrigeration was a block of ice in a heavy zinc or porcelain-lined wood cabinet.  Not having that luxury, a zinc lined box attached to the outside of the window in cold climates, brick lined flues in basement floors or submersion in the outside well would keep other things from spoiling – hopefully. 

Once the vegetables are strained through a large-hole sieve, the remaining vegetables are rubbed through a strainer.  This is reheated and a warm white sauce is added just before serving.

Never boil creamed soup after the white sauce or cream is added.  It will cause the soup to curdle.  Curdled soup doesn’t poison but it’s less than tasty or pretty.  I personally don’t like creamed soup thickened with cornstarch although it’s easier.  I make rue from butter, flour and milk (cream if you like living on the edge of cholesterol city) and beat with a whisk until smooth.

I enjoyed the book’s instruction on how to serve creamed soup:  “Never crumble bread or crackers into the soup because it will make an untidy soup plate filled with crumbs.”  Well OK then.  A rule I do wholeheartedly agree with:  “Each soup bowl should be heated.” 

And because I know you want to know:  “The soup spoon is placed to the right of the teaspoon, which is to the right of the knife, which is to the right of the plate, which is under the soup bowl.” 

And because you really do want to know:  “In eating soup, the side of the spoon farthest from you should be dipped into the soup, the spoon should then be raised to the mouth and the soup silently sipped from the side of the spoon.”  I’m old enough to remember when people actually did this because you were a disgusting clod if you didn’t.   Not to mention comments about how you were raised and your general over all intelligence level.  Manners were taken seriously in those days and I’m still OK with that.

For those of you who preserved asparagus from your garden this year (or went to the grocery), here’s a simple recipe:

Fresh Asparagus from my garden
“Cream of Asparagus Soup”

1 bunch of asparagus (or one can)
2 ½ C of water
1 slice of onion
Speck of pepper
2 C milk
4 T butter
4 T flour
1 ½ t salt

Remove the tips of asparagus and save to garnish soup.  Cook stalks, water and onion together for twenty minutes then rub through a strainer.  Mike a white sauce from the butter, flour and milk and add to the strained asparagus.  Season with salt and pepper (adjust to taste) and add asparagus tips and reheat but don’t boil.  Serve with toast.  For a modern touch, sprinkle with grated fresh Parmesan cheese.

It’s the perfect meal for a cold winter evening. 

Side Note:  Bishop Hill, Illinois, Colony Potter, Jeffrey Goard, makes some of the best soup bowls (along with his many other works of art) I've ever used.  They hold the heat, are ample in size, and are so beautiful any soup improves.  Seriously fabulous!

1 comment:

  1. Diane - now I am hungry for soup!! Loved this article. Aren't those cook books gems? I have one that directs the cook to "start with a clean bowl" - we have no idea how lucky we are to have refrigeration, do we? Thanks for the trip back in time and for the recipe!