Soup Suppers

by Arthur Schwartz

Harper Perennial, 1994. 215 pages, 140 + recipes.

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"People ask foodwriters, 'Where do recipes come from?' This one, my quasi-vegetarian rendition of a traditional Creole-Cajun dish,...came out of my head after I read every gumbo recipe in my cookbook collection, and a few clipped from periodicals or jotted on scraps of paper over the years."

Iota -bean and saurkraut soup

Three-Bean Vegetable Chili

Peach Crostata (a dessert)

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Look of the Book

Soup Suppers has a nice no-nonsense kind of organization and layout.

I might have bought this book for the title alone. Those words "soup suppers" wrap me in a soft blanket of contentedness.

The author Arthur Schwartz writes, "I come from a serious soup-making, soup-eating family." I also happen to be a soup person, making soup a one-dish dinner at least once a week. I'm glad someone else took the trouble to gather so many good soup recipes and put them all in one place;

Still, Schwartz understands that man and woman does not live by soup alone and includes a good but less extensive selection of breads, salads and appetizers, and desserts. (His dessert Peach Crostata is the kind of dish every cook loves: it requires little effort and produces a great effect.)

This book gives you a world tour of soups. In the section on meat soups, the culinary inspiration of the soups include Hungary, Kentucky, Yemen, Scotland, Scandanavia (and that's a partial list). Looking under Chicken Soups, you'll find three versions of Chicken in a Pot: Jewish, Southwestern, and Greek. For warm weather there's a section on cold soups; for less-meat meals there are Bean and Grain Soups as well as Vegetable Soups.

Soup is supposed to be the ultimate comfort food. And soups like Schwartz' five different chowders and four noodle soups certainly fit in that category. Every now and then I've hit a soup that crossed the line that divides "comforting" from "boring"; two disappointments were Broccoli and Shell Macaroni Soup and Italian Mushroom Soup with Parmesan.

Sometimes you want a soup that generates excitement rather than contentment. Plenty of those here too. For example, there are three kinds of chilis to choose from. I tried the Three-Bean Vegetable Chili mainly because I was intrigued by its unexpected ingredient of orange juice; it was delicious and subtly refreshing in a way that chili usually isn't.

Arthur Schwartz comes across as a likeable, interesting person, the kind I'd like as a cooking teacher or a dinner guest. Throughout the book, he is helpful without being hovering, knowlegeable without being a know-it-all. He has good tips and insights on ingredients and technique. His presence is friendly and he has good stories about where and who many of the recipes come from. Understanding pragmatic considerations, Schwartz accompanies each recipe with "Supper Suggestions" which include ideas for other dishes that could round out the meal, and " Advance Preparation" which tell how much you can do ahead, how long the soup will keep in the fridge and if it freezes well.

This book is a must for confirmed soup lovers. And I bet it could bring a lot of converts into the soup-loving fold.