One of the beautiful things about soup, besides the warm fuzzy feeling you get in your stomach while eating it, is the fact that it can be made from literally anything. Not into beef? Throw in some chicken. Sworn off animal products? First of all, I’m sorry. But more importantly, don’t sweat it! You can create all kinds of soup-tastic creations without any dairy or meat. I like to think of soup as the great amalgamation between almost-forgotten vegetables, things in your pantry you bought because you thought you’d use them eventually and every spice in your cabinet.
Knowing I had a full week ahead of me consisting of paper-writing, book-reading, and other college-y things that don’t involve being social in any way, I decided to celebrate the coming Autumn with a weird farmers market concoction to commemorate this year’s fall harvest. That, or I just bought a bunch of shit that I didn’t know what do with so I decided to make one master bowl of soup-y goodness so as not to waste money. Hey—if Meeting Street can make a cookie of doughy leftovers that rocks the socks off of life, I don’t see why my fall bounty soup couldn’t do the same thing. And, if I could use this experiment as a way to go crazy and make up a catchphrase that would make Emeril proud every time I plopped something else random in my pot, I say onward, ho!
Soup-making requires a loose foundation with which to start, but after this framework is established (or maybe not, whatever), feel free to do whatever you want. After all, this is Brown; use this as an excuse to celebrate the not-so-New Curriculum while course browsing for pre-registration. Generally, soup requires a large pot of some sort — the bigger the better. If you have a slow-cooker, now’s the time to dust that baby off. If not, that’s okay — you’re a normal 18-to-24 year old. In addition to your big pot, commandeer some sort of ladle/stirring tool to assist in frequent stirring and tasting. If you’re not tasting, you’re not cooking.
Soups need some sort of liquid base. Some of my favorite velvety soups are thick because of the dreamy magic of cream. If you care about taste more than fitting into your skinny jeans, go crazy and add heavy cream or crème fraîche as a base to your soup. Broccoli-cheddar lovers out there, I’m talking to you. If you choose to make a slightly less-rich soup, use vegetable, chicken or beef stock, or even water in a pinch. And, if you want to bulk up your soup so it can stand alone as a meal, add some sort of grain or rice or pasta to the mix as well. Got it? Good.
Typically, soups consist of liquids, vegetables, starches, and proteins. Using this holiday vegetable soup as inspiration, I raided my pantry and found chicken stock, dry quinoa and canned tomatoes: already a solid start to a good soup. There was a lack of chicken in my refrigerator, so canned whole black beans became my soup protein of choice. Then, I assessed the vegetables I had left over from the previous week’s farmers market on Wriston and from various leftover meals. A random assortment of baked acorn squash, zucchini, spinach, baby portabella mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes, onion, leftover lentil curry and an impressive amount of garlic became my soup’s ingredients. Finally, I pulled out a bunch of spices I had stashed away to build flavor (Curry? Check. Cumin? Check? Cinnamon and nutmeg? Check and check.).
I chopped. I minced. I bled (um, this step is not recommended). I cried (this step is not affiliated with said bleeding—damn onions!). I waited. I stirred. I waited. I waited. Was I pleased with my Garbage Soup? Bet your ass I was! It was the best damn soup I had ever made and, dare I say it, maybe the best soup I had ever had. Granted, one always feels a sense of pride and attachment towards those dishes made with one’s own sweat, blood (sigh) and tears, but damnit, that soup was good. I ate it hot. I ate it cold. I ate it for days, and it never got old. And what did it cost me? Only some leftovers from previous meals and some vegetables that were probably only safe for consumption after being plunged into boiling water (just sayin’). So if you only learn one thing from your time at Brown (and if that’s the case, I’m utterly baffled), remember the great gift to humanity that is the Meeting Street Garbage Cookie and apply its logic to daily cooking adventures. Many things that taste amazing alone will probably taste even better together. And, if all else fails, throw some stuff in a pot and see what happens; it works in paper-writing and it works in the kitchen!