Friday, December 21, 2012

Soup for breakfast

Do you make your own soup? If not you, who makes your soup?

The summer farm share season is over. I’ve filled one of our freezers with baggies of blanched kale, green beans, sugar snap peas, skinned and seeded tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Kevin roasted pans of eggplant slices and froze them. Two of the four animals we’ve arranged to receive all or part of this winter have arrived and are in there, too.

I’ve had decreasing interest in cooking. It’s hard to explain. My interests have shifted. At the same time, Kevin is showing an increased interest in the cooking, and has been doing more of it. He’s fussier than I am and I am willing to let him take over. But now I’ve bumped against the bottom. This morning, I burned the soup he prepared this morning, warming it up to eat. I should have set a timer, because when I’m working it’s hard to get my attention from meat space, and forgot about it long enough for it to anneal itself to the bottom of the pot. When I’m so distracted from food and cooking that all I can get it up to do is warm (burn) soup and grill a sandwich once a day, that’s as far as I get. To let all of the shopping, farm share pickups, and cooking go, not even to wash the dishes afterward, is too far. It means I’m depressed. I’m just lucky that I have people who love me who will cook for me when this is the case.

If your soup comes out of a can, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be full of poisonous crap that you would never knowingly put into soup that you are feeding someone to make them well. It’s probably made from conventional produce, including the Dirty Dozen, so it’s full of pesticides. It’s got more salt, MSG, and “natural flavors” than anything you’d cook yourself.

Soup cans leach dangerously high levels of the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A, or BPA into the food. This synthetic, estrogen-like substance has been linked to a host of health problems, and a JAMA published study found that eating a can of soup a day for a week increased blood levels of BPA by more than 1,000 percent.

If it contains animal products, it’s very likely made from animals fed genetically modified grain, antibiotics and growth hormones. Yet the soup base is clearly not a bone stock, or when you opened a can of soup, it would be very thick and gelatinous, not a thin, pourable liquid, as is generally the case. Bone stock is full of minerals and protein from collagen, both good for you and absent from canned soup. Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist, makes videos showing you how to make different kinds of stocks, and what a properly gelled stock looks like. Here’s my own all-purpose stock post that includes variations for any kind of bone or fish stock, and vegan roasted vegetable stock.

Lately, Kevin makes me soup for breakfast. He started eating it about a year ago, when he made some changes to his diet. At first, I wasn’t interested in eating soup first thing in the morning, but it’s slowly grown on me. At first it was just weekends. Near the end, I was asking him to make smoothies, gluten-free pancakes, and chicken soup for breakfast on weekends: the “full breakfast.” Now we make our own smoothies (they taste best when perfectly fresh) and Kevin makes soup each morning and leaves half for me. The smoothie is frozen fruit---strawberries, blueberries, bananas---yogurt, and whole milk, blended. Soup is a fresh preparation of meat and vegetables with miso and kimchi. Sometimes he previously baked chicken thighs, or the occasional bit of pork, but recently it’s beef: something from the round, or some loin flap meat. Sometimes he’ll add minced pork fat, if the meat is lean. The vegetables usually include bell pepper and zucchini, in the summer, but he’s getting more flexible. Last winter I was buying bell peppers grown halfway around the world, and not feeling great about that, but ambivalent, because Kevin was so happily cooking his own food after years of letting me do all of the food preparation. He’ll still buy a pepper most weeks, and sometimes a quart of mushrooms, but most of the vegetables are from our winter share: turnips, carrots, parsnips, radishes (watermelon and daikon), rutabagas, sweet potatoes, delicata and butternut squashes.

Now, he’s taken on just about all the weekend cooking as well as our breakfasts, and because we share the responsibilities for making fresh food, I find our values are more in alignment around how we spend our time and money on what we eat. He’s oriented toward being economical and thrifty in following the seasons and our farm share, like I am, and takes pride in using what’s in the fridge to best effect. While I’m the king of the big batch, he is good at making something from a little of this and a little of that. Soup is right in the middle of that wheelhouse.

Some people call this “garbage soup” when they make soup from leftovers. We call it putting a cap on the cost of food, and valuing what we have. We say to each other, fairly often, that we are very lucky: we get to eat some of the best food we can even imagine. We eat far better than either of us did in childhood, maybe better than anyone we know. It’s definitely exactly what we choose.

Kevin didn’t used to like soup much. I don’t know what has caused the change: some coming together of several different ways in which he could suddenly perceive what he wanted, and feel confident in pursuing it. I know part of my adoption of breakfast soup has been phasing out coffee, and other things that upset my stomach. Soup, finished with another generous helping of kimchi, is flavorful, comforting, not acidic at all, and not too filling or daunting to digest.

And my husband makes it for me, so it’s full of love.
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