And it is a good subject indeed for these cold, dimly lit days. A kitchen filled with the heat and aroma of a long simmering soup is a welcome nearly everyone craves. The very word soup conjures up warmth and nurture. Its etymology is said to be the Latin word suppare meaning to soak or to seep. Which is a way of extracting all possible nutritional value from all parts of a plant or animal from every bit of seed, grain, stem, stalk, leaf, skin, bone, marrow and cartilage. As each meal was finished, every scrape went into whatever passed for a stockpot in those long-ago days. When all meals began with a harvest or a hunt, extending the ability to feed one’s family is an accomplishment and a necessity. Puts a whole new perspective on dinner preparation and makes an hour’s effort look like duck soup.
Soup is believed to be the second oldest cooking method, developed as soon as a water-proofed hide containers could be hung over hot coals or to which hot rock could be added. Grains or cereals were roasted then ground into a paste to which hot water was added. From that point on, it was an upwardly bound enterprise where flavors and stores could be extended to feed many more people. Archeologists in China found the remains of a 2,400 year-old-soup that still contained bone fragments. Yet there is other evidence that humans were consuming soup as long ago as 20,000 years. That’s right, soup was
Believe it or not, soup is responsible for invention of restaurants according to food historians and etymologists alike. Inexpensive and concentrated soups were sold by 16thC French street vendors from wheeled carts equipped with crude cauldrons sitting over buckets of coals. These vendors advertised their wares as a restorative, an antidote for physical exhaustion. In 1785, one enterprising Parisian vendor moved his soup specializing kitchen indoors where it became known as a restaurant.
Whatever its origins, it is truly infinite in its variety and appeal. We have cold soups for summer months and hot ones for winter. There are broths, bouillons, consommés, cream soups, purees, bisques, bouillabaisses, chowders, gumbos, goulashes, pepper pots, Scotch broths, minestrones, mulligatawnies and those are just the formative types without necessary reference to the ingredients. Frequently our market tastings are of soups, which have become exceedingly popular. Not only have I seen a person or two go back for seconds, I have been one of them. On our website you will be able to find dozens of soup recipes including: Nana’s Chicken Soup, Creamy Turnip Soup, Potato Sorrel Soup, Spicy English Parsnip Soup, Minestrone, Panzanella and Ribollita Soup. As today’s recipe offering, we have our Market Master’s recipe for Leftover Potato, Ham and Cheddar Soup. As many of you can attest, Kay Carroll is a veritable Soup Maestro. I can attest to the fact that this delicious smokey combination of flavors is fully up to providing delicious satisfaction.
The goose is a strangely inelegant bird. It waddles. It is the only thing that comes in gaggles. It has a harsh raucous voice that frequently carries a frightened and fierce warning. The goose has idiomatically invaded our language like no other creature. Before we can read, we are introduced to Mother Goose and inexplicable little rhymes and tales such as Goosey, Goosey, Gander and the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg. Mother Goose is usually depicted as an old woman riding a large white goose. Is she tiny and the goose giant-sized? It is never explained and so we learn early to accept impossible things. Sometimes as many as six before breakfast.
We are reminded often that what is good (originally sauce) for the goose is good for the gander, that is for the male of the species. We understand this to mean that whatever is good for one is good for the other, that gender has no innate entitlements. Nice thought. Come to think of it, how did the gander become a look at something? Many a child or even a playful adult or two has been called a silly goose. We have goosebumps, a condition of the skin when cold, afraid or excited. Goose down signifies the ultimate in luxurious warmth. There are goose-necked lamps and tools, for use in situations where an awkward bend is helpful. One has to wonder about how a type of inappropriate touching became known as a goose.
Goose-stepping, however, does not conjure up any goose personally witnessed by me. It is a stiff-legged march used primarily by military groups usually in ceremonial conditions. One origin theory holds that it reminded British soldiers of a goose standing on one leg. It appears that only after it became associated with the Nazis, did the rather silly march take on a pejorative aspect. Back to more modern times, the 2019 video game of the year is the Untitled Goose Game. No matter the timing, idiomatically, when your goose is cooked, you’re in a heap of trouble.
While those icy lands of Russia, Poland and Sweden brought vodka into being, the French developed a luxury vodka aimed specifically at the American market and called it Grey Goose. There is another Grey Goose, it is a set of 13th C Iceland laws said alternatively to have been written with a goose quill or on goose skin parchment. In another bit of goose symbolism, the Trans Canadian Highway completion was commemorated at its terminus in Wawa Canada with a huge statue of a goose known as the WaWa Goose. Wawa is also cited in The Song of Hiawatha as the Ojibwe word for a wild goose. While no one holds wild goose chases dear, the call of the wild goose and the image of unfettered freedom have captured many an imagination.
In the 18th C the British formed an early version of the Christmas Club. By paying a small weekly amount throughout the year, you would be guaranteed a well-fattened goose for your Christmas or New Year’s dinner. We do ourselves a disservice by relegating this bird and its delicious meat to a few times a year. This week’s recipe is Roast Goose with Pear Thyme Glaze and Pear Onion compote. Remember that, technically, it is still the holidays through Twelfth Night, so you’re allowed to continue feasting as long as you can handle it. Happy New Year.
Exactly how did holly get into the winter holiday tradition? It is very likely that it followed the same path as what we now call the Christmas tree. Think about how inexplicable it must have been to prehistoric people that some trees, shrubs, bushes stayed green when all the others lost their leaves and went into their annual mourning of the sun. And when some of those evergreens produced cheerful red berries, well clearly it was a plant of great value and strength that had the ability to dismiss the evils of winter, its lack of fresh food, its bitter cold and biting winds. Must have been magic, right?
Holly is an ancient plant, older even than the continental plate shifts that formed our current geographic configurations. In fact, holly, in all its variants, is native to all the fertile continents. China alone has 204 varieties. The leaves can vary from dark to medium to variegated and so on. It can be successfully planted in the shade. While it is slightly toxic to humans, the holly and its berries are an important food source to many birds and wild animals.
Sometimes we listen to music in an odd state of both comfort and oblivion. We sing the verses and rarely stop to make sense of the actual words. Songs, like stories, are handed down and each singer and teller adorns them with different nuances and significance. As succeeding religions around the world became popular, they frequently adopted elements of the previous. In one primeval carol, The Holly And The Ivy, there are references to both Christian and Pre-Christian symbolism. Early Celtic populations across north western Europe celebrated the solstice, the return of the sun, combined with what the sun’s return represented, the earth’s fertility. The stag was a frequent icon of impressive fertility. There are references to priests and kings being robed in deerskins and antlered crowns for participation in the “running of the deer” revels, or at least the human interpretation of it. Those antlers were supposed to be draped with the magical holly. When the Christians arrived, the holly was then said to represent a crown of thorns and the berry drops of Christ’s blood.
The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.
The rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.
Whatever your taste in songs and stories, ‘tis the season to indulge. Speaking of indulgence, this week we are offering a Chocolate Peppermint Truffle Tart. This has to be the easiest (and richest) dessert I have ever made. It is recommended that, however you decorate it, you served it with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Don’t forget to take a look at our website for many other festive recipes including: Eggnog Pie, Cranberry Walnut Tart, Pork Standing Rib with Cardamom Current Sauce, Spicy Pumpkin Bundt Cake, Stilton Tart with Cranberry Chutney and Crustless Chestnut Pie. Whatever you choose to put on your table, enjoy it with people you love and have a wonderful holiday.