Monday, December 11, 2006

Soup as a Weapon.

Today, December 11th …

Today Geneva celebrates “La Escalade”, or “Scaling Day”, and a great deal of fun (and food) is had by all. The day is the anniversary of the successful repulsion of the forces of the French Duke Charles-Emmanuel of Savoy in 1602 by the citizens of the city. The Duke had intended that two thousand of his men would scale the city walls by means of ladders, in the secret dead of night. The plot was foiled when Mère Catherine Royaume who lived with her family above one of the city gates, heard a noise, looked out, and promptly threw a hot pot of soup (and perhaps the pot itself) over the wall, killing one soldier - but not before he had made even more noise, thus alerting the whole city.

The townspeople generally have a good time on this day parading, dressing up, symbolically smashing soup “marmites” while singing patriotic songs and enjoying the fact that they did not become French citizens. Naturally, food figures in the fun. It is winter, so mulled wine and hot chestnuts are popular, and of course soup is cooked and eaten, but, – this is Switzerland, after all - there is also much consumption of chocolates made in the form of soup pots filled with marzipan vegetables.

We can probably safely assume that the Mère Royaume’s hot pot was a large one, as the good mother had fourteen children. Presumably she was up at that hour with one of the little ones, and thought she would cook the next day’s dinner while she was about it. No official recipe appears to exist, but legend suggests it was a vegetable soup.

By a co-incidence that is very convenient, a charming little English book published in 1927 by Christina B. Peacock and called 'The Practical Daily Menu' has a “Hot Pot” for dinner on this very day. It is decidedly neither a vegetable dish nor a soup, but it will serve us well enough today by virtue of its name. Ms Peacock does give a recipe for a bean soup too, should you wish to stay true to the theme.

Mutton chops; 1 sheep’s kidney; 2 potatoes; 1 onion; salt; pepper; 1 teaspoonful Lemco*; ½ teacupful water.
Grease a fire-proof dish and put in a layer of thinly sliced potate, a layer of shredded onion, pepper and salt, then place in the chops and sliced kidney, and put another layer of potato, followed by onion. Season, add the water and Lemco, place on lid, and cook in a slow oven for two hours.

*Lemco = a commercial beef extract.

Haricot Bean Soup.
½ lb. haricot beans; 1 Spanish onion, 1 small turnip; 1 oz butter or good dripping; 1 ½ breakfastcupfuls milk; salt; pepper; 3 pints water; 3 tablespoons chopped parsley.
Soak the beans overnight in cold water with a pinch of baking soda added. Have three pints of water in a pot, add the onion scaled and shredded, the turnip cut small, dripping, and beans. Boil for three hours, strain and rub through a sieve. Add milk, seasoning, and chopped parsley, and stir till it comes to boiling-point. Serve with sippets of toast.

Tomorrow’s Story

The Importance of Supper.

Quotation for the Day …

I would like to find a stew that will give me heartburn immediately, instead of at three o clock in the morning. John Barrymore, actor.

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