(Caroline says: Having written a book about soup, I frequently have friends initiate conversations with, “So, I have this soup story for you…” And what follows is just that, a true soup story, told with the freakish wit and elegance I have come to associate with my friend, Michael, a macher of the Lower East Side, who encourages coffee-drinking and surfing in equal measure.)
NOTES ON SOUP – by Michael Little
You take certain risks as an American male of certain age, of the single-variety, when dating in New York. Everyone has an app or a co-worker with a single roommate and a cat or a nail technician who’s sure to be recently widowed or a monastery seeking disciples or an app or a co-worker with a single roommate etc. etc. etc.
It was a night this fall when the streets had just begun emptying indoors, shop windows darkening earlier in the crescendo of dusk, streetlight embers illumine.
A good friend who cut his teeth sous-ing with Nancy Oakes at Boulevard in San Francisco and I were running along the East River. Footfalls, cold pavement, car doors thunking shut. We covered the usual sujets de conversation: Jiu-Jitsu, 7th graders in Bed-Stuy, whey isolates, Vonnegut. Then we get to me.
Dilemma: I had invited a girl over – not from an app: more the friend of co-worker’s single sister – for dinner after. Which meant the onus was on me to A) cook and B) do so so as to appear competent and virile and robust – e.g. fully capable of huntering or gathering or surviving the next Ice Age. And C) I had exactly 30-40 minutes (shower incl.).
As we round the spine of the East River Park onto Avenue A, heading south toward Union Market, we review recipes still in my repertoire: Thai? Whole fish? Italian? No-bake bread? when Zach says: Why not soup?
You’ll need, he says:
4 chicken drumsticks
1 small onion
4 garlic cloves
a green (one big bunch)
a bean (one big can)
tomato paste (for texture)
chicken stock* (3 quarts or so)
Saute drumsticks in olive oil, chopped onion and garlic cloves. When the chicken is browned add beans (I choose Butter Beans) and green (Rainbow Chard) and continue to saute until greens are soft. Add stock and tomato paste and spice (fresh basil, chili flakes, salt & pepper). Before serving: pull chicken meat from bones – it should fall off easily – discard bones. Salt and pepper to taste ad infinitum.
No one believes me at Union Market. The overhead lights balk audibly as I troll the aisles; the checker whispers something about deliverance when I explain my plan. I grab ciabatta. Chocolate covered-peanut sundrops for the walk home. San Pellegrino.
I exit the shower to browning chicken in a soup pan (soup bucket?), add beans and greens with a towel around my waist. Light a candle. Queue John Mayer. No: Queue Chopin. No, Queue: The National – yes, High Violet.
Add stock and tomato paste – ‘Really, Zach?!? Tomato paste? HELP!’
‘Yes’ he texts. ‘Saute a little in a pan with olive oil – will give the stock some depth.’
And what can I say about the soup?
Girl arrives. Heels on, hair up, ephemera. Soup burbling. She says ‘You made soup?!?’ And then ‘No one’s made soup for me before.’
Me: Yes. Scratch.
‘What made you decide on soup?’
Me: It’s just something I picked up. Soupmaking.
Serves 6-8, depending on how many dinners you share
(photo courtesy of www.polynate.org)