Vegetable Soup for The Starving Time

By , April 21, 2019

Spring, in many traditions, carries the sobering name of “The Starving Time” or words to that effect. Here we are at the time of year when the winter food stores are all but exhausted (if not literally used up) but the planting, just started, hasn’t produced any edibles yet.

As it happens, while today we will eat a more traditional Easter meal in our homestead, it will feature leftover vegetable soup from last night.

pub soup

Pub soup’s final touch (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

When the family visited Ireland last autumn (see Every Sign a Song Cue) we embraced the strategy Aly and her classmates pursued during her class in that country (see “I Would Bring You Ireland”): meals could be had in a local pub. Almost all pubs offer soup of some sort, often vegetable, along with brown bread, for a few Euro. This simple, satisfying, always delicious, and inexpensive meal allowed us to eat for less, and devote our funds elsewhere, like toward the local beers and hard ciders that, incidentally, complement soup and bread quite well!

At the first bite, the pub soup intrigued Michelle and me. It was homogeneous, but slightly grainy. We speculated that it might include cornmeal or something similar to thicken it.

At our first Air B’n’B stay, we found the answer: this home, and virtually every one we visited, had an immersion blender.

When we returned home, we found a reliable immersion blender (the Braun MQ505 Multiquick Hand Blender (paid link), recommended by America’s Test Kitchen). Since then, we’ve made our own pub soup!

Oddly, our best soups come when we wing it. Michelle actually searched for and found an “official” vegetables-to-water ratio (3:1) but it didn’t work well for us. We now basically use 1:1, and thin if necessary. If it gets too thin, a couple of spoonfuls of instant mashed potatoes evens it out.

Other than that, it’s more like guidelines than actual rules. We throw in a little of whatever we’ve got, mostly root and cruciferous vegetables. We chunk them, boil them, perhaps with a few scoops of broth powder, then run the immersion blender through it until no lumps remain. We might add a little salt and spices if necessary (I favor rosemary and thyme).

pub soup ingredients

Typical “pub soup” ingredients ready for boiling (Photo: Michelle L. Zeiger).

It’s super simple. In fact, I find the less I think about it, the better the soup, generally!

Aly brought back a simple brown bread recipe from her first trip to Ireland. A favorite evening out for us includes throwing soup in a thermos, wrapping the bread in a cloth napkin, and heading to our local brewery. By law, they’re limited in how much beer they can sell each person (basically, two beers an evening) and they welcome patrons bringing in snacks and food. We match the meal with their signature stout, which I find to be very much like Guinness, and we have a nostalgic, delicious meal!

pub soup cooking

Pub soup in progress (Photo: Michelle L. Zeiger).

But I digress. Starving Time. Here we are, at Easter, the Pascal season, the spiritual, if not actual beginning of spring. Many faithful have practiced the self-denial of Lent, ending now. That practice seems to make a virtue of the practical limitations of The Starving Time.

We make and eat pub soup a lot. But, at this season, it seems especially symbolically appropriate, using the last of the root cellar contents in a soup that reminds us of good harvests to come.

2 Responses to “Vegetable Soup for The Starving Time”

  1. Mark,

    Ah yes, thanks for this story, and the soup idea. I’ve been thinking about getting one of those immersion blenders too, but now see a real need that can justify spending the money.

    Stay Well!

    – Jay

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Hi Jay! Always glad to give people a reason to spend money on things they already want. Seriously, though, it’s a great little tool. I wish we’d gotten one a long time ago, it’s useful for a lot more than these soups! Take care! Mark

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