I love soup. I remember when we were kids it felt like we ate soup or spaghetti almost constantly. Soup was served in this super fancy-looking tureen The Mom had, which looked sort of like a cross between an urn for your dead relatives and something to put a lot of flowers in. It even had a matching ladle. That we were served anything at all from such a fancy piece of crockery is testament to the high place soup holds within our family.
Were you to pop round to any one of our houses, flats, or apartments you stand an incredibly good chance of being offered a bowl of soup to eat, be it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, a snack, or just as a thing to be offered to guests.
My track record with soup-making is, unusually for me, rather good too. I like the idea of putting ten things in a pot, boiling the shit out of it, and coming back later for deliciousness. This speaks to my level of interest and skill in the kitchen.
And The Mom has taught me and my siblings well with our soup-making skills. We know about making a proper stock – veggie or otherwise. At least, that what I thought. It’s the otherwise that’s turned out to be a bit of a problem. I can otherwise a chicken stock. No problem. in fact, after much nagging on the part of The Mom, I now keep at least on Tupperware bucket of chicken stock in my freezer, just in case the Crohn’s flares up and I have to go on a bit of a… low-residue diet. Chicken broth is great for that. And even if I’m not in a full-on flare, chicken soup, potato soup, veggie soup, all of the soups benefit from some good homemade stock. in fact, I frequently will buy and roast and chicken just so I can have stock.
Anyhow, I digress. The problem is not with chicken, the problem is I grew tired of chicken last month and was feeling that I might like beef broth. What I really wanted was to have soup with barley in it, which I remember from being a kid. I found myself in the possession of a beef soup bone,wich I remember for years The Mom telling me was indeed A Good Thing To Have. But typically, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with it. I put it in the freezer knowing that it would take me several weeks to think about it sufficiently that I would feel okay-ish about tackling it.
During these weeks, I made my enquiries: of The Mom, the internet, private messages to friends around the world. I looked at recipes, considered the ingredients, the origin of the chef, the reliability of the website. And then, one grey, miserable, cold and rainy day I did it.
I put the cooker on and roasted my soup bone as instructed, with all kinds of nice veggies for it to settle with. I got my big pot down and then I put all that business in and made stock the way I always do. It smelled very promising. But when I looked at the stock it looked like dishwater. And when I tasted it, it was unsalted dishwater. I added more herbs and left it to simmer.
So off I went back out to shitty Tesco and got a package of meat that looked similar to what I thought I ought to be using. The problem is that I was a vegetarian for a long time and have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to cuts of meat, I don’t know which ones are nice and which ones aren’t and why. If we could re-brand the world for a week or so with labels like, You’ll like this one Gill, my life would be A LOT easier.
I came back with more veggies (root veggies that I thought would be appropriate) and the meat and added all that to what I was now calling soup and left it to cook. Throughout the day, as my mood darkened due to the lack of tasty smells from my kitchen, I would add anything and everything I could think of to this miserable brew.
In the end, the actual meat made it okay to eat, but just last night I took some out of the freezer thinking I’d eat it and I couldn’t face it. It was terrible. So flavourless and dishwater-y.
I embroiled The Mom in a long debrief about my failures, and recently, on a weekend break in Barcelona, involved my friends there in a long discussion about where I went wrong and what to do next time.
And you know what? Next time I want beef soup, I’m going out.