Saturday, May 3, 2008

Ugly Soup

In honor of my daughter coming home from finals this week, I cooked a pot of Provencal Vegetable Soup. But I don't have a picture to prove it.

I tried to take a photo. Really. But Annie Leibovitz and the best camera in the world could not have made this 'pot of pond water' look good. The taste was good actually, and that's the funny thing, we ate it, it just didn't look good. And that's the problem with soup, sometimes it isn't the prettiest subject to photograph. Nor, the easiest. I encountered more than one dilemma today when I made Ina Gartern's version of this soup.

First off, I love Ina's cookbooks and am a big fan. But today I think it was the changes that I made to the recipe that rendered it a bit offensive to look at. Basically it is a simple vegetable soup made better by the addition of saffron and some pasta. What makes it special is the Pistou, similar to an Italian pesto but with tomato paste added to the basil and garlic. Ina's soup called for Chicken Stock. I was running low and substituted a combination of dark chicken stock and roasted vegetable stock. That was my first mistake.

Then Ina's recipe called for Saffron. Ina has no kids, drives a Mercedes and lives in the Hamptons. I have two kids in college, drive a Chevy and live in Oklahoma. I had Saffron on my grocery list once, but that's the closest it ever came to becoming a resident in my spice drawer. So in lieu of Saffron, I substituted a pinch of Turmeric. Because somewhere I had once read that turmeric could be used in place of saffron to jazz up the color of a recipe. Well ... let's just say this odd combination of stocks and turmeric resulted in a murky, greenish-brown liquid I once saw at a toxic super fund site.

Then there was the problem with the Pistou, mired there in the sludge like something out of a bad Al Gore documentary.

Lastly, a single piece of broken spaghetti floated atop the bowl like a dead worm helpless in it's environment.

It was awful.

And needless to say, no pictures of soup were posted today.

On a side note and as an FYI: When it comes to blogging, pictures aren't my strong suit. My camera is on the blink and I don't have one of those fancy digital phones yet. So I am always moving things around the house, searching for the best light, taking pictures of odd things like soup.

I remember an incident earlier this spring when my son and I were driving through a beautiful historical neighborhood - and saw a lady crouched down in her front yard, taking a close-up of lord knows what, and my son said, "Must be for her blog." That's when I knew I am not the only one(!).  I take solace in that. 

If anyone is interested, there is a recipe and beautiful pic of Soupe Au Pistou in Ina's Barefoot in Paris cookbook and it really is delicious. The fresh vegetables, mingled with the tomato, basil and garlic of the Pistou are simply delightful. I highly recommend it.


Proud Italian Cook said...

Hi Michelle, I had fun reading your real life stories. I know what you mean about taking photos. For some reason, pork chops and pesto never look good to me when I photograph it. Keep up the good work!

Michelle said...

Thanks for stopping by proud italian cook, I'm going to keep working on the photograhpy thing, hope to get a new camera soon. One good thing about Italian cooking is the array of fresh vegetables and pasta -- always as pretty to look at as they are to eat.

rowena said...

I got a good chuckle out of reading this post! Ina would be miffed! (I admire Ina, but that book title makes me cringe - doesn't she know that there's dog poo all over the streets of Paris?!?)

Anyway...the thing with bloggers and their photo obsessions is so true *cough cough*. But for a blogger to hold my attention sans pic is truly a sign of good writing vs. flashy photography. You had me at the post title. I may eat with my eyes but I am nourished with the written word. I apologize for taking so long to get back to you, it's been so hard to look at the dozens of images after getting back from holiday!

Michelle said...

Thanks for the kind words rowena, very inspiring. I got a little chuckle out of what you said - now that I think about it, Ina's book does have a funny title. Who would want to walk barefoot on those streets? I also liked what you said about being "nourished with the written word." Truer words were never spoken, and I have a dusty house full of books to prove it.