Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Disconsolate eggs and weary steak.

The author of yesterday’s source (One Thousand Simple Soups) emphasises the value of soups as a way of using up pantry scraps – and the sense of glee that arises from presenting to the unsuspecting family the recycled leftovers of an unpopular recipe experiment as a successful soup the following day. She includes a several page poem to illustrate the idea that soup can rescue the hostess when the cook is gone, the pantry is empty, and not only does the immediate family need to be fed, the extended half arrive unexpectedly, each with his or her own food desires and expectations. Each person at the soup meal finds just what they wanted in that single dish. The poem, called Ballad of the Empty Pantry and the Seven Guests is attributed to the Chronicles of Metu – an apparently fictitious source which nevertheless lends great authenticity to the concept.

In her own introduction, Olive Green says:


‘Monday’s disconsolate fried egg, Tuesday’s tough and world-weary steak, Wednesday’s sad lamb chop, Thursday’s disappointing codfish ball, and Friday’s stewed tomatoes,may all fulfil a designated destiny in Saturday’s soup, to the inner satisfaction of the unsuspecting, and the secret amusement of the artist.
For cookery, when all is said and done, is an art, as Dionysius has it:


“Know on thyself thy genius must depend:
All books of cookery, all helps of art,
All critic learning, all commenting notes
Are vain, if void of genius thou wouldst cook.” ’

Well, I am not sure that one would get too many unexpected visitors for Saturday supper if one gained a reputation for that sort of end-of-the-week cooking extravaganza!

Soup is nonetheless a great way of making a good meal out of not much. Here is an idea (one can hardly call it a recipe) from The family save-all, a system of secondary cookery, by Robert Kemp Philp (1861)

[Pea-Shell Soup]
When peas first come in, Pea Shells, boiled, and pressed through a sieve, with some of the liquor in which they were boiled, are equally good as peas. The young pea haulm is also good for the purpose. One half the quantity of young peas will suffice- for soup, when the shells are used in this manner.

Quotation for the Day …

When my mother had to get dinner for eight she’d just make enough for sixteen and only serve half.
Gracie Allen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i was sad when i saw that the poem Ballad of the Empty Pantry and the Seven Guests wasn't written there.. i even went on the internet to hunt it down. but didn't find it.