Monday, May 30, 2011


Some people make soup. My Austrian grandmother made zoop. It cured everything. It was fragrant and delicious. And it filled us up when we were hungry. And now I make zoop, too (For specifics, see my Jan. 19, 2012 blog on How to Make Stock).
Sometimes I start from scratch, throwing bones, vegetables and seasonings into a large pot to produce chicken, vegetable, or beef stock. I bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to let it simmer, chill it overnight, skim off the fat, and theres the start of a fine zoop! My grandmother, or Mutti, would have been proud.
I grew up as the earth was cooling. European households were big on European morality tales - and my Austrian grandmother told some dandies! Enter Struwwelpeter, by Heinrich Hoffmann, who as any good child raised in early post-war Europe knows, was the Morality Tale to End All Morality Tales. Struwwelpeter - literally, “Shaggy Peter” - was a naughty, naughty boy who let his hair and fingernails grow too long. As a consequence, he was shunned by his friends. Today, the kid would be a rock star.
In these morality tales, naughty children always met dire consequences. A thumb sucker has his thumbs snipped off; a girl who plays with matches burns to death; a boy who ventures outside during a storm is blown away - presumably to his doom! What does this have to do with soup? Everything.
I was raised with the story of Die Geschichte vom Suppen-Kaspar (The Story of the Soup-Kaspar). You can imagine where this is going! Kaspar, a robust young boy, refuses to eat his soup. Over the next five days, he wastes away and dies. Surprise, surprise! While I remember Soup-Kaspar, I also remember a lad named Augustus - same story, same demise. It reads:
The Story of Augustus Who Would Not Have Any Soup
Augustus was a chubby lad;
Fat ruddy cheeks Augustus had;
And everybody saw with joy,
The plump and hearty healthy boy.
He ate and drank as he was told,
And never let his soup get cold.
But one day, one cold Winters day,
He screamed out - Take the soup away!
O take the nasty soup away!
I won't have any soup today!

How lank and lean Augustus grows!
Next day he scarcely fills his clothes,
Yet, though he feels so weak and ill,
The naughty fellow cries out still -
Not any soup for me, I say:
O take the nasty soup away!
I won't have any soup today!

The third day comes; oh, what a sin!
To make himself so pale and thin.
Yet, when the soup is put on table,
He screams as loud as he is able,
Not any soup for me, I say:
O take the nasty soup away!
I won't have any soup today!

Look at him now, the fourth days come!
He scarcely weighs a sugar-plum;
Hes like a little bit of thread,
And on the fifth day he was - dead!
On that cheery note, Ill bid you auf weidersehen! 
My advancing years and a lack of freezer space have changed the way I do things, so that I often buy stock ready-made and prepackaged. I’d like to pretend that mine’s better, but the commercial product is actually very good, so give yourself a break and buy some, if you don’t already do that. Once you have the stock, making homemade soup is - pardon the adjective - dead simple.
I’ll give you my favorite Shitaki Mushroom Soup recipe in tomorrow’s blog posting. I’m pleased to say that I invented it, but that’s what homemade soup is - one part stock, and two parts inspiration! 

Until then, Dollinks - xox  Nicole

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