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by Margaret Cullison


In winter, a healthy warming soup appeals to most of us, often evoking childhood memories. I think of coming into our toasty house, after walking six blocks from school for lunch, cold and hungry, to the aroma of soup simmering on the stove.

Iowa winters extended from November through March, but the best time for soup was January when we were satiated with rich holiday fare and wanted comfort instead of indulgence. The soup was usually homemade because it tasted better, always an important consideration in our house.

My father came home for lunch until I was fifteen, when he became a circuit court judge and began traveling daily to other county seats to hold court. His mother lived with us, so six of us sat down together for the noon meal.

The word soup comes from sop, sliced bread with broth poured over it. My paternal grandmother, Buddy was born in 1866, and she’d grown up eating sop. When roasted meat was on the table, more likely for an evening meal, she’d ask Dad to make her some sop. He obliged by putting a piece of bread in meat juice on the serving platter. After it was well soaked, Buddy enjoyed delectable sop to finish her meal.

My mother used few shortcuts when preparing food, because she preferred the “real thing” to convenience foods that became more readily available in the mid-1940s. The popularity of canned soups was well established by that time. Quick dishes that relied for flavor on canned mushroom soup or dehydrated onion soup were much in favor after World War II but not by Mom.

She may have fixed condensed tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches on a busy day for us kids. But I doubt she ever served such a meal to Dad, her champion and companion in their adventures in good eating.

Her recipe for tomato soup demonstrates a depth of flavor that no canned soup can equal. When fresh local tomatoes aren’t in season, as was true every season but summer in the Midwest, a 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes may be substituted. However, this substitution results in a slightly sweet soup, because of the sugar usually added to commercially canned tomato products.

     Tomato Soup
      6 fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
      1 clove garlic, minced
      1 stalk celery, chopped
      1 medium onion, chopped
      2 bay leaves
      3 tablespoons butter
      3 tablespoons flour
      1 cup milk

Simmer tomatoes, garlic, celery and onion with the bay leaf until vegetables are soft. Cool and then puree the mixture in a food mill; should render about two cups. Return to pan to keep warm.

While vegetables are cooking, melt butter in another pan, add four, blend well and then slowly add milk. Cook until sauce is thickened. Gradually stir sauce into the tomato juice. Add salt and pepper to taste, stir until steaming hot and well blended. Serves two to three.

Mom’s Note: Add more milk if desired, but I like a rather tart soup.

Mom devised her recipe for cheese soup after I’d grown up and moved away from home. With her children gone, she had more time to entertain her friends “the girls,” as she called them. She usually wrote to me, letter writing being our primary means of keeping in touch until well into the 1970s, about her current culinary experiments.

I remember hearing about the soup, but it was not family fare. Members of her bridge or book clubs more likely enjoyed this elegant soup, rich in butter and cheese.

Cheese Soup
2 tablespoons butter
2 small onions, chopped 
1 celery stalk, cut fine
1 carrot, grated
1 14-ounce can chicken broth
Dash of cayenne pepper
1 cup whole milk or half and half
1 rounding tablespoon flour
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese

Simmer the onion, celery and carrot in butter until partially cooked. Add the broth and cayenne. Cook until vegetables are just done. Mix flour with milk until lumps are gone; add slowly to broth and vegetables. Cook until thickened. Stir in the cheese until melted; do not boil. Serves two to three.

Mom’s Note: Use your own judgment about amounts. You can eliminate the celery and carrot, if desired.

Page Two of Winter Soups>>

©2006 Margaret Cullison for SeniorWomenWeb
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