December 4, 2023 | Rome, Italy

Soup saga

By |2023-02-01T04:30:56+01:00February 1st, 2023|"Suzanne's Taste"|
When life hands you the flu, have a bowl of soup.

ou would think that being fairly isolated and distanced from crowds and restaurants and what used to be normal days would give me loads of time to do… well… life, but cooking always comes first.

A friend called me a few days ago lamenting her bad, bad head cold and the first thing I did, being my mother’s daughter, was to reach for the soup pot. Soup in winter cures all ills around here and thus the saga began.

It was Sunday, a day on which we visit a dear housebound elderly French lady we’ve known for years, and that was the first interruption. At least the pot was already on the stove. And the visit usually only lasted about half an hour.

I had time before leaving to chop onions, carrots, garlic, zucchini, celery, and potatoes and start them off in olive oil, adding a substantial amount of chicken broth to cover.

Time to go visit. The fire was turned to low, so off we went.

It is my belief that soups need to simmer until they don’t, which means you can go outside (in a heavy jacket) to tend your pathetic winter garden, or fill the bird feeder, or pray over suffering plants that aren’t used to these frigid temperatures of January, and the soup will carry on.

Even after what turned out to be a long hour of discussing Macron’s pension changes, how to make a king’s cake, and the fascination of Columbo’s turn around at the end of each episode when he comes back into the room with “Just one more thing…” (our friend’s favorite series), the soup held its integrity.

Upon our return my soup was now seriously simmering, so I cut the heat and looked around in the fridge for lunch fixings, always an adventure, as I love leftovers and am constantly surprised by what lurks there from, say, a previous penne all’arrabbiata or a peposo, the famous Florentine beef stew created in the ovens of tile workers long ago as they fired the materials for the domes of that magical city.

It is my belief that soups need to simmer until they don’t, which means you can go outside (in a heavy jacket) to tend your pathetic winter garden.

Meanwhile, my soup waited patiently for the next phase.

A good thing, too, because now it was really going to expand its horizons with the handful of penne, a couple of leftover slices of crisp bacon from spaghetti alla carbonara and a good dollop of rilettes de oie, that rich goose fat spread that had been patiently waiting for its next victim. I put a little of that on a cracker to keep me going until lunchtime. Along with a little sip of Banyuls, the sweet wine of this region.

And a nice splash of that went in, too, along with some sea salt and fresh Madagascar pepper, all of which kicked up the action. Oh, and some juices from a roast chicken that were hiding behind a stack of yogurt cartons.

The end was in sight.

I love cooking like this with whatever falls to hand, plus a soup is the tastiest way to clear out a fridge.

I had almost forgotten my poor sniffles friend up the street, waiting patiently for her cure! I filled up a Tupperware and my dear husband whisked it up to her as I ladled what was left into our own bowls.

I am sure she will still be feeling lousy for a few days as colds are like that, and I’m sure she misses her social life.

But I just found three heads of rose de Lautrec garlic nestled under potatoes in my hydrator.  Hmmm… French garlic soup, a surefire cure-all as everyone around here knows.

Three heads of garlic. A social life may not be in the cards.

I’ll throw in some parsley for her to chew on, just in case.

About the Author:

Suzanne Dunaway, a longtime major magazine writer and artist, is the author and illustrator of "Rome, At Home, The Spirit of La Cucina Romana in Your Own Kitchen" (Broadway Books) and "No Need To Knead, Handmade Italian Breads in 90 Minutes" (Hyperion). She taught cooking for 15 years privately and at cooking schools in Los Angeles, and now maintains a personal website and a blog. She divides her time between southern France and Italy.