Recipes are for crybabies who play by the rules. That’s the principal thing you need to understand.
I will not care where it came from or what ancestral monkey handed it down the branches of your family tree — if I catch you trying to use a recipe to make soup after I’ve made it perfectly clear that recipes are for crybabies, you’d better watch out.
One of us is not playing around here.
I will knock your beloved recipe book or index card or newspaper clipping to the cold, hard floor without a moment’s thought or remorse. If you accidentally get knocked to the floor, too, so be it.
Even more painful for you than that accidental tumble will be the fact that I’ll no longer consider you among my culinary protégés.
That’s how I deal with crybabies who play by the rules.
You will be exiled from my kitchen. From your own kitchen, too. I can arrange that.
Soup is not some terribly complicated scientific experiment that requires exact measurements of volatile substances in order to achieve your intended results. It’s just soup. Often, it’s little more than an unremarkable diversion snuck between the salad and main courses of a meal to assuage uncomfortable conversation.
In other words, it’s just soup.
Perhaps you’re still intimidated by the idea of coming out of your kitchen with a soupy something that could embarrass you in front of your clueless friends and family. Don’t be. If they knew anything about anything, they would have invited you out for a restaurant meal.
Perhaps you believe all the ridiculous myths about food preparation that make it onto cable TV. I suppose you also believe in the Easter Bunny and Lee Harvey Oswald.
Perhaps you should relax.
I’m about to tell you how to make soup.
How difficult can it be? It’s eaten with a spoon.
You start by making the wet part of your soup that writers of crybaby recipes like to call the broth. That’s done by pouring cold, warm or hot water into a cylindrical metal container called a soup pot. You’ll often find a soup pot on top of your cooking range or in a cabinet stacked among other dusty pots.
Feel free to check in your kitchen now.
Once your soup pot is half-full, give or take what appears half-full to you, stop pouring in water. Your broth is finished.
If you don’t believe me, dip in a spoon and give it a taste. It should taste wet. Broth is, after all, the wet part of your soup. But do be careful! If you used hot water to make your broth, it might be hot. Or if you used cold water to you make your broth, it could be cold — possibly cold enough to make your teeth ache.
When you’re satisfied that your broth is wet, begin stirring in your soup’s solid bits.
Meats and vegetables make tasty solid bits for a soup, if you’re the kind of person who enjoys the taste of meats and vegetables or is interested in trying them.
Some meats and vegetables make better soup than others. Pimento loaf, for instance, is a delicious choice for soup, because it has some kind of vegetable in it as well as some kind of meat.
Beef jerky and dandelions, on the other hand, do not make a very good soup. No one knows why.
If you’re scared of putting meats and vegetables in your soup, stir in anything that you’ve always been curious to eat — or just put in your mouth. But take note: soup is typically more enjoyable and easier to make when what you’ve always been curious about ingesting is already in some solid form about the size of a bit, whatever that means to you.
Once you’ve thoroughly stirred your meat and vegetables or other solid bits into the wet part of your soup, you’re almost done. Simply turn on the cooking range burner beneath your soup pot. Twist the knob to its highest, hottest setting and walk away.
Run if you smelled leaking natural gas before you turned on your cooking range burner.
In just moments, a few hours or days that turn into weeks that turn into months, your soup will boil. Cook it at a steady, rolling boil until your birthday. (Groundhog Day if you’re cooking in a high altitude setting.)
When your soup no longer looks like something a person should eat, turn it down and let it simmer until you suspect you’re on the verge of dying from starvation. You’ll likely be hallucinating and feeling your stomach start to digest itself.
As you contemplate the life that you lived, in and out of the kitchen, think about how foolish you would have felt using a recipe to make something as effortless as soup.
Really ponder it.
Then call me and thank me for the many times I tried to help you over the years. Tell me something along the lines of, “Brian, I realize now that all those horrible things you said about Rachael Ray were for my own protection. I only wish I’d been listening when you explained so beautifully how to toast bread in a toaster. I’m sorry that I failed you.”
If you want your soup to taste like anything, your apology to me will be your dying words.