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Bean Soup

My father subsisted on pea soup and bean soup, more or less, for the last twenty years of his life, those things plus some Polish sausage and almost ripe tomatoes. Making them is easy and cheap. The biggest challenge is remembering to soak the beans/peas overnight. You can use leftover ham as a base, or the parts of the ham that you didn’t want to eat because they were too fat or too hard to pick off the bone. You can see why this is such a wonderful peasant food.  It stays good for a long time. In fact, it improves with age.  Nothing is wasted.  You can also toss in whatever vegetables were laying around.  It all turns into a kind of thick gruel that tastes pretty good if you put in a little pepper and salt.

I don’t make these soups as much as I did when I was in college. Back in college pea soup and bean soup were among the foods that had the three attributes I craved: they were cheap, reasonably nutritious and I could make them. That is probably why my father ate them all the time too.  But my kids don’t like either, so they cannot form the basis of a family meal.  As I recall, I didn’t like them either when I was a kid. I learned to like them when I was in college. No doubt under my father’s influence, I made it from scratch, the less expensive and better way, rather than buying the pre-made stuff in cans.

You can get pea soup at some nice restaurants, but it is kind of a specialty not common most places.

We had ham for supper and we have ham bone left over, so today I made bean soup.  In a couple of days, I will make some pea soup with what still will be left of the ham.  This week, we will dine like the old man taught me.

Oh yeah, he used to make cabbage soup too. I haven't made that for a long time. No matter how much of this kind of food you try to eat, you really cannot get fat on it.  These kinds of food fill you up before they can fill you out - the original diet food.

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Sounds good. I tend to put beans in a slow cooker with tomatoes and basil, to make more of a casserole.

May I contribute my favorite soup recipe? It comes from Elizabeth David's great masterpiece "French Provincial Cooking".


The white part of 2 leeks, 1/2 lb. tomatoes, 3/4 lb. of potatoes, 1 1/2 oz. butter, a little cream, chervil or parsley.

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan; before it has bubbled put in the finely sliced leeks; let them just soften in the butter. Half the success of the soup depends upon this first operation. If the butter burns or the leaks brown instead of just melting the flavour will be spoilt.

Add the roughly chopped tomatoes; again let them cook until they start to give out their juice. Add the peeled and diced potato, a seasoning of salt and two lumps of sugar. Cover with 1 1/4 pints of water. After the soup comes to the boil let it simmer steadily but not too fast for 25 minutes. Put it through the food mill, twice if necessary. Return the puree to the rinsed-out saucepan. When it is hot, add about 4 oz. of cream. In warm weather it is advisable to first bring this to the boil, as if it is not quite fresh it is liable to curdle when it makes contact with the acid of the tomatoes. Immediately before serving stir in a little chervil or very finely chopped parsley. Enough for four good helpings.

For all its simplicity and cheapness this is a lovely soup, in which you taste butter, cream and each vegetable, and personally I think it would be a mistake to add anything to it in the way of individual fantasies. It should not, however, be thicker than thin cream, and if it has come out too solid the addition of a little milk or water will do no harm.

Thanks Don,

I will try that next week. Today Chrissy has made some kind of beef stew. She cooks much better than I do. I have to go for the simple things, becasue the complicated ones are beyond my ken.

I never liked those foods when Daddy cooked them either, but now I appreciate them for their good taste, nutrition, and low calories. We're still eating pea soup made from our Christmas ham. "Waste not, want not."

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