Soups like the one above were common during the Great Depression when a few potatoes had to feed a large family. While most of us are able to purchase or grow a wide variety of vegetables in this century, we may not always be so fortunate. It is wise to learn, appreciate, and preserve the art of frugality.
Good and simple meals rarely involve exotic sauces, costly ingredients, or snobbery. The magic is that you can make this particular potato soup when your cupboards are nearly bare. When anyone else would walk into your pantry and declare that a meal could not be procured, you can just grab a saucepan and smile. In just moments (and with seemingly nothing at all), you can produce a soup which is so flavorful and lovely that your guests will beg for the recipe. Upon receiving the recipe, they will insist that you have left out an ingredient. Magic, I tell you.
Meet Magic Potato Soup:*
- 4-5 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 onion, sliced as thinly as possible (the onion will “dissolve” and be absorbed by the liquid almost completely by the time the potatoes are cooked if sliced very, very thinly!)
- 1 teaspoon salt (and an optional dash of pepper)
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
Combine the first four ingredients in a saucepan and cook until potatoes are tender. Drain, reserving liquid. In the empty saucepan, heat butter and flour until flour is browned.
Add the reserved liquid. Stir and cook until smooth (use a whisk or fork). Add potatoes and onion, then heat through.
Sprinkle with chives or parsley, if desired or if such items are available.
This soup was first served to me by Becky Matheny, who graciously shared the recipe and agreed that all of GRIT-dom (and beyond) should be able to partake in a little bit of edible history. She, like so many master cooks, believes that simple and fresh ingredients make for good and clean food. Becky lives in the Shenandoah Valley and hosts Soundquilt, a non-for-profit grassroots music festival. Her husband Mark, a talented musician, can often be found with his band (the Walnut Grove Band) in their pre-Civil war era barn..
One of my favorite cookbook authors, Xavier Marcel Boulestin,** once said, “Do not be afraid of simplicity. If you have a cold chicken for supper, why cover it with a tasteless white sauce which makes it look like a pretentious dish on the buffet table at some fancy dress ball?” Food does not have to be dressed up to be delicious. So, do not be ashamed of “humble” eats and serve this soup (and others like it) with pride.
*Recipe is similar to one found in the More-With-Less cookbook, by Doris Janzen Longacre, published by the Herald Press, in Scottdale, PA, copyright 1976.
**Xavier Marcel Boulestin wrote several cookbooks, my favorite being: Simple French Cooking for English Homes (1923). He was a respected chef, successful restaurateur, and the very first televised chef.
How are you frugal in the kitchen? What stories can you tell us about the Great Depression or perhaps a time when your family/friends had fallen on hard times?