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November 19, 2008

Soup Plays by Its Own Rules, Baby


Little is firmly known about the phenomenon of the seasonal soup craving. Most of what is known is based not on a strict foundation of evidence but by raw observation and eyewitness description.


A scientist may dismiss this as a poor factual foundation. Soup is a slippery thing. It is less a science than an art, except when the situation calls for science-like precision. In those cases, which maybe account for up to 50 percent of all soup-craving phenomena, it is less a science than an art.


The inconsistency here is obvious. Perhaps that makes it maddening. Yet, again, soup is a slippery thing. It can be science and art at the same time, just as it can be maddening and soothing at the same time. Soup refuses all attempts to corral it. It rejects boundaries and artificial confines. Soup is, and always shall be.


What we can say for certain is that seasonal soup cravings create a stressful dilemma. There arises a conflict between the natural desire to eat hunks of meat with potatoes, and also the seasonal desire to apply a warm broth to the stomach to warm one’s bones. (Is soup capable of warming one’s bones? It is. Soup’s potential is as soaringly boundless as its spirit.)


The answer to this conundrum is simple math: Soup plus meat equals meat soup. When applied to the pork chop and potatoes, the answer becomes pork chop and potato soup.


At the heart of all soup is broth. Start with a cup of chicken broth and two cups of water. Add to that several chopped fresh sage leaves, rosemary, oregano and thyme. Chop up a small onion and a clove of garlic. For good measure, add a bay leaf.


Heat all of these together until they begin to simmer.


Now, chop into pieces a few small, cleaned potatoes. If your supply of potatoes contains very small ones, add those uncut. A spoonful of soup that produces such a thing is like opening an oyster and finding a pearl. It would be a day you’d never forget even if you tried.


Add some pieces of carrot and celery. Simmer these together, and attend to your meat.


Cut a pork chop into bite-sized pieces and brown it in some olive oil. Once it is nearly cooked all the way through, scrape it and any chunks on the bottom into the pot with the simmering broth.


The soup itself will be finished once the potatoes and carrots are soft enough that you can mush them easily in your fingers. Finish with salt and black pepper to taste, and consider garnishing with some chopped carrot green, or fresh parsley. Both are similar in flavor and texture.


Remove the bay leaf and pour everything into a bowl. You have created one serving of pork chop and potato soup. Soup’s strength may be the economy it can add to a kitchen. On the other hand, soup doesn’t play by anybody else’s rules.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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