Hello and thank you for stopping by eSoupRecipes.com – my blog devoted to all things soup. I really appreciate it. My name is Todd and I live in northern Wisconsin, just blocks away from the shores of Lake Superior. It is a beautiful area with lots of clean air, forests, birds – and winter. Yes, winters here are long, snowy and very cold. It’s a perfect place to have a bubbling pot of soup on the stove for months on end.
I always loved food and cooking, but it wasn’t until I was laid off from my job in 2008 that I started cooking at home with any regularity – and did I have a lot to learn! But as I started bringing armfuls of cookbooks home from the local library and spending each evening cutting up vegetables, sautéing and learning how herbs and spices could bring a dish together that I realized how much I loved to cook. But above all, I came to love – and got good at cooking soup. And it became something more than I imagined. It became a love affair in the kitchen and a reconnection with my childhood.
I really love to make soup and make it almost every week – sometimes twice a week. I love the process of soup making, from choosing a recipe or concept to carrying out the dish: chopping, dicing, sautéing veggies, reducing, thickening, seasoning; all the things that go into making soup I enjoy. Soup of some sort can be found in the cuisine of nearly every culture and country across the globe. Soup making allows me to “travel” via different ingredients and tastes to places I may not ever get to visit directly. Soup keeps me warm during long and cold Wisconsin winters. Whenever I have a pot of soup simmering on the stove, the weather outside never seems quite as ferocious.
Making a big pot of soup on a Saturday or Sunday means my wife and I have plenty of leftovers for lunch in the coming days. You’ve no doubt heard the old adage, “It tastes even better the next day.” Well, most times people are talking about soup when they say this. If you’ve ever reheated pasta, fish, pizza or steak, you know this isn’t true for everything. But with soup, it is!
Lastly, but most importantly, soup is about memories. Some of my earliest and best food memories revolve around soup. When I think back about all the meals I ate as a youngster, a great many of them featured or included soup.
I remember as a kid going on vacation with my grandparents. Back in those days, Howard Johnson’s hotels and restaurants were all over the United States, and we often stopped there for a meal. My absolute favorite thing to order from the Howard Johnson’s menu was clam chowder. It was thick with clams and utterly delicious. I could never get enough! Little did I know at the time, but there was a reason this chowder was so good. The great French chef Jacques Pepin was behind the scenes in Howard Johnson’s kitchens, creating some of the chains most popular dishes and adapting them to large-scale output. One of these dishes was their signature clam chowder.
I grew up in southwestern Ohio, and a mainstay of the dining scene was a family-style restaurant named Bill Knapp’s. My memories of eating at Knapp’s include countless cups of their awesome chicken noodle soup – I think I ordered it every time I went there! It was a basic but flavorful rendition, and the broth/stock had an almost velvety texture. The noodles were flat and approximately ½-inch wide and a couple inches long. I typically only ever ordered a cup, because I had to save room for biscuits and honey and the fried scallops or fried clams that were my main course. With any luck, I would finish with a piece of chocolate cake. Knapp’s always had one on display under glass at the check-out counter, too, in case anyone forgot!
My dad’s father didn’t cook often, but what he did cook was outstanding. And for me, that meant pancakes in the morning and bean soup for lunch or dinner. I doubt he followed a specific recipe; instead he relied on a hearty smoked ham bone to flavor the navy beans that bubbled slowly on the stove until some of the beans had split from their skins and started to dissolve into the soup, thickening it even more.
My grandfather often baked a loaf of beer bread to serve with the bean soup, or we might have rye bread with butter or a plate of Ritz crackers and perhaps some cheese to eat with the soup. I liked my bean soup with an extra shake of black pepper, while my grandfather would add a dollop or two of ketchup into his. At the time, I thought putting ketchup in bean soup was a weird thing to do, but now I know better!
Chili was another soup I remember fondly from my youth. My mom would make it as would my dad’s mother. They were basic, Midwestern chilis, relying on ground beef, chili powder, kidney beans, canned tomatoes, onions and, in my grandmother’s case, some green pepper. I don’t know why, but it always seemed like a special occasion whenever we were having chili.
When I had Cincinnati-style chili for the first time at the legendary Skyline Chili in the mid-70s, it was a revelation. My first time was after a Cincinnati Reds baseball game, during the era of the Big Red Machine for those baseball fans out there. I had never tasted anything like it before. The Greek-influenced spice blend tasted exotic and very strange compared to the seasonings found in a typical chili seasoning packet, but I took an instant liking to Cincy-style chili. It was the beginning of a life-long love affair with this Queen City specialty and chili in general.
And later, I discovered other soups across the globe that blew my mind and invigorated my taste buds to the point where I thought, there is a lot more to soup than a clunky glob of condensed material in a can. And it was time to spread the good word.
eSoupRecipes is the culmination of my wife and many others telling me, “You should really do something with your soups.” So, I offer this blog up to all other soup lovers and those of you who may be new to cooking soups and want to put the best bowl of chili, chicken noodle soup or something entirely new in front of your friends and family. When they take that first spoonful and say, “Wow, this is really good,” that’s all the thanks you need. I know you can do this because I have done it.
I cordially invite you to join me on this journey across the delicious and rewarding world of soups. As they say, “Soup’s on!” Won’t you grab a spoon?
Publisher of eSoupRecipes.com