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Friday, January 9, 2009

A soup opera.........


....and they say soup is the eternal comfort food....


I don't think I fully appreciated what a good soup can bring to your life until I entered Lapbandland. Oh, sure, as the daughter of a great Italian cook, I was raised on my mom's wedding soup. Plus, I can whip up a killer version of that myself. However, for many years--that soup and the traditional homemade chicken noodle were all I knew. And, I was fine with that. My repretoire got a bump up in my 20's when I discovered French onion soup. But, I think it was the bread and cheese that sold me on it. And, somewhere along the line, I learned to like New England Clam chowder. Which led me to be a little more adventuresome...ending up with falling madly in love with Charley's chowder--a seafood soup-stew they serve at The Grand Concourse and the Gandy Dancer Saloon. A soup I still love. Although we don't go there that often these days (I'll have to remedy that soon...). But, for the most part--soup was the last thing I ever thought about for many years. I made soup every once in awhile--to appease my soup-loving husband. I didn't order it in restaurants--I preferred to start my meals off with gin then go on to the bread, the salad, the wine, the main course, the dessert and the after dinner drink.
Enter my Lapband....
Suddenly things changed. Soup became a staple of my liquid diet phase, my mushy food phase, my post-fill phase and my-band-is-pretty-tight phase. And what happened? I fell in love with soup. I became a soup conesseur. A soup know-it-all. Ask me where they serve the best crab bisque and I can tell you. Ask me where they serve the most luscious lobster chowder and I know. You want baked potatoe soup?...I'll tell you exactly where to find it. Go ahead...try me. I can recommend the best canned soups and frozen soups and I can tell you which days to find certain soups at restaurants and stores.
So, it was no wonder that when it came to planning my holiday menus--soup was on them. I decided on a crab bisque to accompany my Christmas Day salad and appetizer buffet and I selected a potatoe soup to start off my traditional New Year's Day sit-down. With those plans in place, I set out to perfect my recipes by copycatting my favorite ones---Crab Bisque from Amel's and Baked Potatoe Soup from Houllihan's.
Let me tell you...copy catting is not easy. It takes more than culinary skills to pull it off. Take for example my ferocious quest to figure out what exactly was in Amel's crab bisque that made it so yummy and so different from all the rest. I began with making a trip to Amel's...taking Vince along to help with my caper. After all, he is a smart, food-loving PhD student--his pallette might be a bit more advanced, I figured. We ordered the bisque...taking our time to savour each mouthful...hoping to figure out the secret ingredients. We discussed it and discussed it, made a few guesses and wrote down a few thoughts. It was very scientific. Thinking we could confirm our guesses with the waiter--we asked him a few questions about the bisque. He claimed not to know anything at all about the ingredients. He said I would have to speak to the chef--who, at the time, was very busy. I pretended not to care--I didn't want him thinking I was trying to steal his recipe. "oh, I was just curious," I told him with a little laugh. So, the next day, I called Amel's with a cover story--could I order their crab bisque for a large group of people? I was hoping they would say that yes, I could. Then, I would tell them that some of the people who would be eating it have severe allergies. So,I would need to know all of the ingredients. My plan fell apart almost immediately---they did not sell it in large quantities, the woman told me on the phone. "Even if I bring you a pot?" I asked in a panic. "Hold on," she said, telling me she was going to talk to the chef. "OOOOOh......" I tried to stop her--thinking this is my chance to say that I wanted to talk to the chef. But, she was too fast. When she came back to the phone, she asked "when do you need this soup? And, how many people do you want to serve?" Could my caper get any more involved? I thought to myself. "Well, before I tell you that, it would depend on the ingredients, " I stammered. "I have people with severe allergies that would be eating it," I tried to put my original plan into action. "You will have to talk to the chef," she told me "and he is busy right now". "Okay, when can I talk to him?" I asked. "Call after 3 tomorrow," she informed me. Well...after 3 more phone calls...I never did get to talk to the chef. He was always busy. So, I made one more pilgrimage to Amel's...a few Friday's before Christmas. I called Carmen--who was on the road--and told him to meet me there for dinner. As luck would have it--when I arrived, it was very busy. There was not a table to be had. So, I sat myself at the bar, ordered a gin martini and waited patiently for Carmen to arrive. After martini #2 and no Carmen in sight, I decided not to waste any more time--it was time to talk to the bartender about the soup. Now I know 2 things about the bartender----#1--his martinis are wonderful and #2--he is allergic to crab. By the time Carmen arrived--I definitely needed to eat. I ordered my favorite crab bisque. I'm not sure if it was the gin or the fact that I was so desperate to come up with the secret ingredient...however...I walked out of there convinced the chef used nutmeg in his recipe. To this day--I cannot explain my reasoning.

It wasn't nutmeg. How do I know? I made the crab bisque on Christmas Day. It was okay. It was not great. It was not the show stopper I imagined it to be. My poor brother-in-law who loves soup and was so looking forward to it probably didn't have the heart to tell me that it was just okay. My father who also loves soup told me it was good. My uncle with dementia ate it up and asked me for another bowl. But, I knew--this was not the soup of my dreams. I did not get it right....

Fast forward to my New Year's Day potatoe soup---
With the sting of the Christmas crab bisque episode so fresh in my mind, I decided that I had to do a practice run with the next soup. So, a few days beforehand, I made a small batch of potatoe soup--from a recipe I found online that had excellent reviews. Toni, Carmen and I tested it and agreed that it was wonderful. On New Year's Day, I awoke confident that I could reclaim my cooking diva crown with my potatoe soup. I dug out my big pot--the really big pot--and started the process of making the potatoe soup.
Well....somewhere in between my shower and setting the table....my soup died. It burned on the bottom, sending an awful taste throughout the velvety smooth soup and filling the house with a stench that could not even be squelched with twenty candles. Not even the salt of my tears could save my soup.....

I need comforting.....

6 comments:

Kathy said...

Oh Judi, you make me laugh. I love soup too. But I have loved it for years before I got my band. It is comfort food on a cold, rainy day. So good. Now I want to make a pot for dinner tonight. Have a great day!

Kathy

Eileen, Founder, Organizer, Mayor and Chief Cook And Bottle Washer of the Anger Management Girls. said...

I love, love, love soup. I eat it every day.
Believe it or not, the only soups I do not like are Potato and Bean.
I am the only Irish girl alive who does not like potatoes. Geeze.

Why didn't you just ask owners for receipe for soup? When I worked in restaurants, people used to ask for receipes all the time and he would give it to them.
As a matter of fact, if the owners of Amels are the same, I waited on them regularly, years ago.

PS. My hiatus from blogging lasted only three days.

JCWillow99@gmail.com..( Cassie) said...

the best soup I have ever had was at the Hilton in Wilmenton NC. It was the Lobster Bisque. It was better than a steak, I like you not.

Sher's Creative Expressions said...

Poor thing. You keep trying at that soup and keep begging to talk with the cook at the restaurant too!

I'm making potato soup tomorrow myself. I'll remember not to scorch the potatoes :)

We love soups and after the holidays my family needs to eat less too. Soup helps, it filling!

Blessings,

Sher

MindyNTexas said...

ROFLMAO OH you sound like me and trying to copy Carino's Potatoe Garlic Soup ! I cant find a recipe anywhere CLOSE and I love this stuff.
You crack me up !

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