Menu planning for the week. I ask myself, “What seems good to me this time of year, as birds and temperatures head south, winter is imminent yet the days are still filled with plenty of sunshine wrestling the cool breezes?” Soup. Definitely soup.
I comb through recipes pre-grocery shop as I usually do and I come across her potato soup recipe – my mom’s – written in her hand. She’s been dead almost two and a half years. A sad longing to see her comes over me; I am only comforted by her penmanship. “Potato Soup,” the title on the recipe card reads. And so it will be.
Well into our second year of homeschooling, I have a new favorite time of day. Some days in the late morning before lunch, while my daughter, seated at the kitchen table, composes a rough draft of her writing assignment, I begin to cook the meals we have ahead. Today, without uttering a word the waxy golden potatoes whisper, “Creamy,” and the dark leafy green parsley chirps, “Fresh.”
I wash. I peel. I chop. She writes. After each new paragraph appears on her page, she excitedly shares with me what she’s drafted. She likes hearing the words aloud – her words – representing the creativity she used to write them.
My mother was a competent cook to be sure. She didn’t share my zeal for food, but what she gave to me is far more valuable than a passion for eating well. What she embodied was a desire and a willingness to embrace the people around her with hospitality. She was a natural. Growing up watching her welcome anyone who happened through our door made an obvious impression on me. I’m forever grateful for that.
My mom’s recipe follows, with some of my notes on changes I’ve made. You can easily make the soup vegetarian, vegan, even gluten free with some simple omissions or changes (coconut oil for butter, liquid smoke for bacon, and coconut milk for half and half). It’s nearly fool proof, so use it at your pleasure.
May it warm your home and your soul.
Smells Good in Here Potato Soup
By Staci Summers, inspired by Nancy Vennare
Makes about 12 cups
- 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
- 2 or 3 slices bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
- 3 cups sliced onion
- 3 Tbsp. butter
- 3 Tbsp. flour
- 4 cups sliced potatoes (I used yellow for their color and texture as much as their flavor)
- 6 cups water (I used homemade chicken stock and you can add your favorite bullion)
- 1 Tbsp. salt
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- Handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
- 2 cups half and half (optional)
*My additions. Use them if you have them on hand or want to add something new to your pantry:
- ½ tsp. Herbamare
- Sprinkle of organic kelp granules
- 2-inch piece of dried kombu
Melt the coconut oil in a large enamel or stainless steel soup pot. Fry the bacon until crisp, careful not to burn. Add the onions and cook on low heat, about 10 minutes, until they are translucent but not brown. Add the butter. [If you are not using bacon or butter, saute the onions in 3 Tbsp. coconut oil.] When the butter melts, add the flour, if using. Cook the flour for a couple minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the parsley and half and half. Simmer the soup about 40 minutes on low heat with the lid on.
Remove the pot from the cooktop. Once the soup has cooled slightly, fish out the kombu and discard. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher right in the pot. You don’t need to puree or blend the soup, unless you want to and if you did not use bacon. Bacon doesn’t “blend” well!
Finish by adding the parsley and the half and half.
A lot of soups taste better a day or two after you make them and this one is no exception.
*Herbamare is sea salt infused with organic herbs and vegetables. I use it in lots of recipes to add extra flavor. Kelp granules are rich in minerals and trace elements and are an excellent source of iodine, which is absent from a lot of other natural salts. Kombu is a dried kelp also high in vitamins and minerals. I use it to add these vital nutrients to beans, soups and sauces, something I learned from Amy Chaplin’s gorgeous cookbook and invaluable resource, At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen.