It's a bit late to talk about winter soups but we have more than another month before spring arrives. The picture shows a bowl of potage d'hiver I cooked up on our snow day last week. The idea of potage is to throw whatever you might have on hand in your fridge, sauté it, add water and some herbs as you like, and throw it in the blender. Perhaps it is a modernized version of the concoction referenced in the nursery rhyme "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old." In those days, they threw everything in the pot and ate from the pot, threw more stuff in the pot, and ate some more....
Potage d'hiver is apparently now a French soup, and I love to make it in winter. Usually I take onions, leeks, carrots, celery, turnips, a small red potato or two, and a parsnip. In this case, I couldn't find any turnips, so I used what I had on hand: onions, leeks, celery, and carrots sautéed in the pot with olive oil, then plain frozen peas, cauliflower, and broccoli added with water, and some herbes de provence and a lot of freshly ground pepper. Let that simmer for an hour or more, and then blend it up. It's a good stick-to-your-ribs lunch. I usually eat it plain, but any kind of garnish would be fine: cheese or garlic croutons, shredded cheese, a dollop of yogurt or sour cream.
Another very simple potage d'hiver is this cauliflower soup:
Slice an onion and sauté in 2 TB of olive oil and 2 TB of melted butter for 15 minutes on low heat til soft, but not darkened. Add a head of cauliflower cut up into pieces the size of the florets and 1 cup of water. Put the lid on the pot and simmer over medium low for another 10 or 15 minutes, then add another 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper and keep on heat til the cauliflower is completely soft. Cool a bit and then blend up. The result is a creamy and delicious soup, but without the cream. Garnish with shredded parmesan or croutons, or both if you are having guests and serve a cup of this soup as a first course.
I like to make my own soups since they tend to taste far better than canned and lack the overdose of sodium and sugar canned soups tend to have.
To me, this drawing exemplifies the miracle of drawing and painting. I happened upon it when I was looking at George Luks' work in preparation for this post. We could easily COUNT the pencil strokes in this drawing. And yet, we know exactly what is going on. Two women who are neighbors in the city are talking. They are not affluent, as indicated by the kitchen chair on the stoop and the babe in arms. The one with the baby is doing the talking and the one who is sitting is listening but not in rapt attention, as she is not looking up at the talking woman. We feel that they are friends who know a lot about each other. More than likely the standing woman is talking of things that must be done--I have to go in now, only have this for supper, a comment about the husband and when he is coming? Yes, the sitting woman may tiredly nod in agreement, I know what you mean.
Meanwhile, sitting in front is a woman who seems younger, who hears their conversation in the background, and is not attentive. It is the background noise of her life. She sits in a condition of inwardness, even as she looks onto the street before her, watching children playing or women on the way to the store or peddlers calling out their goods or men on the way back from work. But she is not thinking of them. She is watching and waiting. She may be waiting for a man or for a friend or, more likely, simply for her future, and she waits in anxious hope.
My words are a reduction of the atmosphere conjured up by Luks' drawing. With his few quick strokes of the pencil, he has created a world, and we instantly know its tone--cares, tiredness, neighborliness, boredom, and hope. A whole world on a piece of paper.
Chadds Ford Hills by N. C. Wyeth I posted this painting first in 2010, noting that it was by N. C. Wyeth "of his beloved Chadd Ford Hills, for which I have no words at all." But N. C. Wyeth had words, which he put down in a letter written on July 19, 1907, about Chadds Ford: "From the hill...the country rolls back like some great billowing crazy quilt: patches of tender green corn interspersed with squares of ripe yellow wheat and the rich succulent greens of the woods. Great voluminous clouds boil up from hot, quivering horizons, blossoming in great bunches of ominous rain clouds." N. C. Wyeth's letters are filled with beautiful passages like this. He was a great writer with the gift and willingness to lyrically pay homage to the people and land he loved. Note the gorgeous shimmering blue of the Brandywine River in the lower-center.