Most summer lunches around here are grab and go. Today it was sit and slurp because soup was on the menu. Another damp morning, continued rain, and fresh Yukon Gold potatoes from the garden formed a perfect culinary storm of inspiration. And, I remember seeing an easy soup recipe in one of the small cookbooks from my mother’s collection.
The local legion post needed funds, according the book’s forward, and members of the Allen O. Delke Unit No. 16 auxiliary produced this 68-page booklet that sold for 35 cents. Although no names accompany the recipes, I’m presuming all the good members chipped in some of their favorites. The cookbook contains several pages of ads, and the ladies must have hustled all the local merchants to pony up a few bucks for the project. Seventy- -or more– years later, the ads are the source of great entertainment.
In the lower left there is a tasteful ad for corsets and corseletts. Oooh. Lala. What is a corselett? Something tight and uncomfortable, I’m certain. In the upper right, an aluminum washer with the essential copy: “For homes without electricity the Maytag is available with in-built gasoline motor.” Ye gads!! And I would be remiss to not recognize Martha Snyder’s Millinery, scene of a few Easter bonnet shopping trips when I was a youngster. There’s no date on this little gem, but considering the wares being sold, I’m guessing this comes from the 30s or 40s. The illustration of that Maytag contraption settles it for me.
These homegrown Yukon golds make me proud. Dug from our backyard just a few days ago, they were washed and scrubbed and ready for their closeup. I needed eight, but because of their small size I tossed in extra. Really, it made no difference because the recipe, at times, was inexact. It was probably submitted by someone who was very comfortable in the kitchen and who didn’t require every bit of kitchen minutia we expect today. Old Food Cooking means estimating, going with your gut, sticking with your hunch. Answer the question: What would my mother have done? Which is why I renamed this: Best Guess Potato Soup
Dice 8 potatoes, 1 small onion, a little chopped celery (see what I mean? I used a stalk). Boil until soft, add 1 quart of milk, a little parsley (there they go again. I used about two sprigs), a piece of butter the size of a hickory nut (I actually went online to find a picture of one. After I sized it up, I used 1-2 teaspoons). Drop one beaten egg in the soup by spoonfuls. Serve hot.
Could it get any easier? Or more baffling? You could use a few more or a few less potatoes. I peeled about half, but you could do what you want. You could add half a stalk or two stalks of celery, and you could measure out a walnut sized lump of butter if you want it richer. Because everything was so loosey-goosey, I improvised with chopped fresh chives in addition to the parsley and added salt and pepper. Not like the auxiliary ladies were gonna hear about it and track me down!
Note: Place the diced vegetables in a large pot and add enough water to barely cover. Although the recipe didn’t include salt, I added 1 teaspoon to the water and another teaspoon–or to taste–after the milk and egg were incorporated. I also threw in about a 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper. The good news is that all that guesswork paid off. The fresh potatoes elevated this to something really special. I don’t normally eat lots of potato soup, but my husband is a connoisseur. And he gave it a big thumbs up.