This post about The Year of Soup by Howard Reiss was originally published in May, but I wanted to update it and combine it with the soup recipe post for Suicide Prevention Month. I started this blog in January 2019, and in the nine months of the existence of this blog, this post, “The Year of Soup” is still my top liked post by viewers. I felt that it needed to be updated and re-posted for you.
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I recently re-read The Year of Soup by Howard Reiss. It’s a beautifully written book with two main characters, Tess, who opened a soup shop after three failed relationships, and Beany, an elderly professor, I believe sees a lot of himself in Tess. It’s a sad, but a beautiful book full of heartwarming descriptions of soups and herbs, and full of history and poetry as it covers excerpts of Beany’s life. Tess, heartbroken and confused with her sexuality, pours her entire self into her soups and lets it be known that her life is plenty full, creating and cooking soups and that she has no room for anything or anyone else.
Their friendship grew as Beany showed up every Thursday to try a new soup and enjoy a bottle of wine and philosophical discussions with Tess. He never revealed much about his own life, no matter how hard Tess tried to get him to open up. On the one-year anniversary of their year of soup, Beany takes his life. Devastated and angry, Tess learned that Beany bequeathed a collection of his correspondence going back to 1944 when Beany was a soldier. She was told that Beany thought the letters may help her. Through the letters, Beany revealed the secrets of his past, including why he lived a celibate life, why he never married or discussed his past with Tess. Reading about Beany’s life chronologically through the letters one per week over the next year, Tess was able to come to terms with Beany’s death, her own life, learn to love herself, and let others into her life again.
I first read this book nearly four years to the date that my father took his life. Some may read this book and think that Tess should get over it. As the months went by Tess was still angry and sad about his suicide. If I had letters left to me I would have probably read them all at once. Tess put them up on a shelf and didn’t touch them for a month. She decided that his letters, Beany’s Bequest, needed to be savored and appreciated like the memory of their relationship and her soups. I understand how the shock and pain of losing someone, especially someone in your family to suicide can affect a person for years. It doesn’t matter if you had a long relationship, a short relationship, or perfect or flawed… It takes as long as it takes and I don’t think you are truly ever the same. Tess finds some solace in determining some of the possible reasons Beany took his life, free will, being old, or heartbroken, but she knows that nobody will completely understand.
It’s been many years since my father’s suicide and I still have bouts of anger, unexpected moments of grief, and questions that I’ll never have answers to. A lot of my anger is not at him, but at all the men and women whom he called “friends” who turned their backs when it happened. They acted as if my father never existed. I was and still am shocked. Cowards, all of them. I think that younger generations are more compassionate and understanding than my father’s generation and those older than he was. I believe the stigma surrounding suicide is fading as it’s becoming talked about in public more and more. I’m still so thankful for everyone who did not turn their backs, like his sister and her family and his business partner. A dear friend of mine took me to a friends of suicide support group back then and I sobbed so loudly that I couldn’t stay. It’s a private grieving process for me, but the support group seemed to be helpful and comforting for others there sharing their experiences and memories of their loved and lost friends and family that they lost to suicide.
I worked on this soup recipe inspired by Tess’s description of back-to-our-roots soup. I wish Howard Reiss had published recipes in the book. Maybe if I reach out to him on Twitter, he’ll post it somewhere for me! I bet his vision of Back-to-our-roots soup” was much better than mine!Jump to Recipe
After re-reading The Year of Soup all I could think about was SOUP, SOUP, SOUP. I’m one of those people who could eat soup every day. My husband, not so much. Too bad for him! He also doesn’t like “watery soup” so I always have to thicken it. Trying to come up with healthy thick soups is a challenge!
Luckily, we had a cold snap, so perfect weather for making a thick soup. As I began peeling and chopping the vegetables, I was a little worried. Parsnips and turnips are pungent! As I simmered the vegetables in the stock the whole house smelled, sort of like a Jiggs Dinner. Cabbagey??? I had just made a pot of chicken stock, and was honestly worried that I’d just wasted most of it! Turnips and parsnips have a bite to them and are a bit sour. It just didn’t taste right. I did not intend to add milk and sour cream, but once I did, the color looked brighter, the smell was richer, and the taste creamy and delicious.
“…smooth, thick, mildly sweet puree that most everyone enjoys and which will stand up to any salad or bread, as well as your most assertive worries.”The Year of Soup by Howard Reiss
“Back-to-Our-Roots” Soup, a Root Vegetable Soup to Warm the Soul.
- ½ tbsp olive oil
- ½ tbsp butter (optional)
- 3 leeks 2-3 leeks thinly sliced, hard green leaves cut off.
- 5 potatoes Medium to large, peeled and chopped into medium chunks.
- 4 carrots Peeled and cut into chunks.
- 2 parsnips Peeled and chopped into medium chunks.
- ½ turnip Peeled and chopped into medium chunks. (Turnip can be omitted, it's kind-of sour.)
- 1 tsp salt
- ⅛ tsp nutmeg I grated some fresh nutmeg.
- ½ tsp turmeric Optional, but I put some in almost all my soups.
- ¼ tsp black pepper More or less, however you like.
- ¼ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp tarragon Optional
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper Optional.
- 1 ½ cup sour cream Optional, but it's much better with it! A block of cream cheese will work if you don't have sour cream.
- ½ cup milk Cream or Half & Half will work also.
- 8 cups broth I used homemade chicken & veggie stock.
- ½ lemon Zest and juice, optional.
- Add olive oil, butter, salt and sliced leeks to a large soup pot. Sauté until soft.
- Stir in all the spices.
- Add all the cubed vegetables and pour in the broth or stock.
- Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat for about 25 minutes, or until fork tender. (While simmering, bring sour cream and milk to room temperature.)
- Add the zest and juice of half of a lemon. (You can wait and add lemon juice when garnishing if you prefer, or both!)
- Remove soup from heat and very carefully purée the hot soup until desired smoothness with an immersion blender. Be very careful, puréed soup is like Molten LAVA!
- In a large cup or bowl, add the sour cream and milk. Stir to mix out the lumps.
- Ladle some of the puréed soup into the sour cream and milk mixture and stir. Add as much purée as needed to warm the cream through. Once it's warm, stir it into your soup.
- Adjust for salt, pepper. Top with a dollop of sour cream or lemon juice!
- This soup packed up nicely for lunch. Just what I needed some soul-warming, soothing soup and some me time!
- I like to add about 4 tbsp instant polenta to thicken soups, or potato flakes/instant mashed potatoes.
- I like it a little rustic with some chunks of vegetable, not totally smooth. Plus, I’m too lazy to get out the high-speed blender!
- You can also ladle out small batches and purée in your blender. Again, be very careful, puréed soup is like molten lava!
What soup do you make to warm your soul? Some of my favorites are chicken veggie noodle & zoodle soup, butternut squash soup, and a version of Zuppa Toscana with chicken Italian sausage. I try to use homemade chicken & veggie stock whenever possible, I think it’s the best. Sure it takes some time, but your house will smell fantastic, and you’ll never want to use boxed or canned broth again!
Speaking of soul-warming…
Jill replied to my blog post looking for my Moms Stuffed Acorn Squash and she sent me some pictures from her mother’s vintage 1960’s Betty Crocker Cookbook! I’m pretty sure mom made her recipe up, inspired by Betty Crockers Baked Squash with Applesauce and/or the Baked Squash with Onion Recipe. Thank you Jill! I’m totally going to make the sausage stuffed acorn squash!
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, nutritionist, or dietician. I have no medical training. The information I share is based on my own experiences and information. I am not a doctor of any kind. I’m not a chef. You will find a mishmash of healthy-ish recipes and completely unhealthy recipes!
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This book is only $.99 at Amazon right now.