Snow and Soup

Winter is long and winter is cold and winter is expensive.

All of these things are true and all of these things are unpleasant.

With all of this in mind, though, I still crane my neck and squeal at the first flakes that mark the end of autumn. It means sweaters and stews and baking and sledding and long hikes with no one else out in the woods. I’m really into it this year.

I think this is partially because of how psyched I’ve gotten about cold weather adaptation. I’ve continue to work the stand at farmer’s markets as the days have gotten colder, leaving me with nothing to do but thicken up my blood. My body complained at first, begging me for more layers or for just a quick trip inside, but I didn’t really have a choice. A few days into it, I noticed that I was still just wearing a jacket while everyone was burrowing into their parkas and chattering their teeth.

“Awesome!” I thought, “I’m finally that guy! I’ve never been that guy!”

I’ve always been the blue-lipped skinny kid losing feeling in his fingers after sledding for half an hour while husky, bearded men grabbed trout out of the river with their hands. I realize now that my syntax makes it seem that those two events always happened at the same time, but that’s not really what I meant. I only thought about these men as I fought the cold and envied their imagined hardiness. I’m not doing daily polar plunges or anything, but I at least feel good about going glove-less in November.

But that’s all a long tangent to today, the day that Peterborough, NH, the place I live now, got it’s first snow of the year.

And a real snow, at that! I was expecting a few flakes to melt and be forgotten, but we’ve already got four inches! This required a proper ceremony. Luckily, I’d just gotten a bunch of free parsnips the other day…

About three-and-a-half pounds, actually. Since the connection between soups and snow for me is so strong, I thought I’d best not put this off any longer. I got to work on a creamy parsnip soup by first trimming a little over two pounds of them down before cubing and roasting them in a bit of oil at 400 degrees for about a half hour.

Also, note to whom it may concern: I learned tonight to always take extra care in washing your root vegetables before cutting them. Nothing sinks the heart faster than the crunch of gritty loam under the blade of a newly sharpened knife.

Also, the recipe didn’t call for it, but I’d already made up my mind that this was going to be the winter of a thousand roux and thought this was a good place to start. While the parsnips were happily roasting away, I took two tablespoons each of king arthur flour and bacon grease. I now wished I’d used a lighter oil, not for flavor but for color. It was a bit hard to tell if I had moved from white to golden roux when the whole thing started out as beige. I’m definitely not regretting the flavor, though.

As far as I can tell, it was a success. It didn’t separate into weird clumps of make any acrid smoke, so it met my two criteria for success! I also realize that a bacon grease roux is not at all photogenic, but I’m just so damn proud of this thing.

Soon after, I had sauteed an onion with a half-stick of butter in a large stock pot, and added to that the parsnip cubes for about five minutes. Once things seemed to be getting along alright, I added two quarts of stock. One turkey and one beef, just because that’s what was thawed. I let that come to a boil, then homogenized the whole lot with a soup blender that my neighbor friends kindly lent me last minute.

Up to this point, only a little pepper had made its way in. This isn’t really my style, so I got to work while everything was still hot. As far as I can remember, here’s what I added.

-A few pinches of cayenne

-Two teaspoons of grounds pepper. Maybe more.

-At least 1.5 Tablespoons of sea salt. Maybe more.

-The roux I had made.

-About a tablespoon of powdered garlic.

-A pinch of both nutmeg and cardamom.

-About 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast.

I think that’s it. I got almost four quarts out of it. We ate one tonight with some sour cream, chives, and shredded cheese, paired with some home-baked bread and one of the last bottles of our first home brew.

Welcome to winter.


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