The composer Ludwig van Beethoven said “only the pure of heart can make a good soup.”
I think that what he meant by that is that you can taste the love that goes into a pot of soup. If it isn’t made with love, then it might as well just be potato water.
Who doesn’t love soup? If any dish has come to symbolize the nurturing, caring, and comfort afforded to us by our mothers and grandmothers, none has done so as much as soup. When you were sick, your Granny would feed you Chicken Noodle Soup. Unless you were Jewish. If you were Jewish, then your Bubbe would feed you Matzo Ball Soup, also known as Jewish Penicillin. It was called that because it worked—it made you feel better. And it still works today.
The reasons that it works are simple. First of all, soup is nutritious. It is packed with vegetables, and therefore vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed to fight infection.
Secondly, since soup is so soupy, it helps you increase the intake of fluids, which is so important for flushing out whatever ails you.
Most importantly, soup helps heal because we think it does. The mind is a powerful weapon in the fight against illness. Do not quit taking your anti-biotic or your decongestants. Your doctor didn’t go to school for 20 years to not know what he’s doing. But the way we feel when someone makes us a pot of soup is a tremendous step towards healing. Our grandmas put love in every pot they made, and we could taste it.
Maybe this is one of the reasons that I cannot stand canned soup. Well, that and it just doesn’t taste good. I don’t think the factories have figured out how to put love in processed foods, nor to get rid of that weird tin flavor.
“There is nothing like soup. It is by nature eccentric: no two are ever alike, unless of course you get your soup in a can.” Laurie Colwin, ‘Home Cooking’ (1988)
Have I mentioned that when he wants to really torture me, my husband will eat cold soup, right out of the can?! To get him back, I put ketchup on my macaroni and cheese. It works like a charm.
One of my favorites was one that my Granny made—Beef Vegetable. Like most grandmothers, she didn’t have a recipe, she just threw stuff in a pot and it always tasted the same—delicious. That’s the way soup is, so don’t be afraid to experiment with it.
I have replicated in the pot what her soup was in my memories. It was simple, hardy, and turned a few basic staples into a meal to feed a large family, or a small army. I hope you enjoy it as much as we always have.
Beef Vegetable Soup
- 2 pounds beef sirloin
- 2 t salt
- 4 large russet potatoes, peeled, cut in 2” pieces
- 5 large carrots, sliced
- 3 stalks celery, sliced
- 3 T beef base (paste style beef bouillon)
- 2 cups frozen corn kernels (kernels from 2 ears)
- 1 can green peas, drained
- 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed, halved crossways
- 1 15 oz can chopped tomatoes
- 1 t ground black pepper
- Optional: half head of chopped cabbage
- Optional: 1 cup pasta alphabets, or other small pasta
Cut sirloin into ½” pieces. Toss with salt. In a large stockpot over medium high heat, cook meat until juices evaporate and meat starts to brown. Add remaining ingredients. Cover with water. Place lid on stock pot, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer for 1 hour. If using cabbage and/or pasta, add them in the last ½ hour.
“Good soup is one of the prime ingredients of good living. For soup can do more to lift the spirits and stimulate the appetite than any other one dish.” Louis P. De Gouy, ‘The Soup Book’ (1949)