Well folks, I just learned the hard way that making soup is not as easy as throwing ingredients in a pot and letting it “stew” a while. My Friday night foray into Soupe au Pistou (perhaps another unseasoned beginner’s choice) quite nearly became a Friday night and Saturday morning foray. Too bad I told my parents I was taking care of dinner…
Soupe au Pistou is basically vegetable soup with a basil-garlic-Parmesan topping, right? (I do realize I am grossly oversimplifying the magnificence of this French soup, but the list of ingredients does resemble a grocery list of nearly every summer vegi.) So, when I got home from work, I opened up the fridge and grabbed carrots, green beans, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, and a bowl of soaked Flageolets, the “caviar of beans” that my Dad generously bought me (nonetheless stating that “at $8 for 12oz, these things better be good”). Double checking my list, I opened the spice drawer to find the garlic, only to realize we were out.
But I was making this darn soup. So, I hopped in the car and headed to the store, just to buy 50 cents’ worth of garlic. By the time I got back home, it was nearly six.
My second cooking epiphany of the day occurred when I remembered that items on an ingredients list don’t peel, dice, or chop themselves. I tend to eyeball the length of a recipe to judge whether I can handle it — usually eliminating anything that takes four or more “paragraphs” of preparation. I figured this one was okay, with two very chunky paragraphs of to-dos. What I didn’t notice was that every single vegetable was supposed to have been pre-sliced and diced. What?! You don’t just throw whole carrots in there? I have to peel the potatoes? This may seem like a no-brainer, but I suppose I didn’t take into account that preparing this quantity of vegetables would take an hour in itself. Magically, the clock struck seven and there was still no pot on the burner. I did, however, have a very colorful assortment of vegis!
At about this time, Mom began asking whether dinner would be ready anytime soon. She said it so nicely, not wanting to discourage me, but the way she looked at that bare burner made me a little antsy. “I’m almost ready!” I insisted. She looked at the burner, not even pre-heating an empty pot.
“Maybe we should have a backup plan.” She said.
At 7:25, things were looking grim for the night’s dinner. The onions were translucent and the beans were cooking, and I was following the directions to the tee, but Mom decided to bail me out. Dad was almost home and we needed to have something ready. Before I could finish saying, “Okay, I guess that’s a good idea,” she had whipped out a skillet and opened a can of diced tomatoes and was well on her way to making the best impromptu pasta dish ever. Damn these intuitive cooks.
As we ate, I kept looking at my soup, not knowing exactly what was going on. Things weren’t cooking at the “proper” rates. I had added orzo when it said to add orzo, but then needed extra cooking time for the potatoes, so the orzo swelled to inordinate proportions — way beyond al dente. Then I made the pistou using the blender for lack of mortar and pestle, which probably is not comparable, at least by French standards.
I threw in the towel around ten, five hours after initial preparations had begun. I figured I would try it in the morning, and that if it were edible, we’d have food for at least five months. If not, I had peeled, sliced, diced, and (over)cooked a bunch of vegis–and some very expensive beans–for sheer learning experience. I’ll leave you to imagine the outcome. (The lack of photos being a good indicator…)
As I was going to bed, I heard Mom recounting her evening to a friend on the phone. “Well, we ended up eating kind of late,” she said, giggling. She tossed a good-hearted smile my way before explaining, “Emily’s soup of the day might end up taking DAYS.”