[OPMF=Other People’s Mom Food]
James requested potato soup for dinner, “if there’s bacon”.
When he got home and the bacon was sizzling on the stove, in preparation for being turned into the basis for potato-soup stock, he said to me, and I quote, “And thank you for finally realizing that bacon is a necessary ingredient in potato soup.”
It’s not that I’m unclear on the concept that in order to be Mom Food for him, potato soup consists of, at minimum, potatoes, water, and bacon. It’s just that for ME, potato soup is more like the cream of potato stuff you buy in cans, only homemade. My mom’s potato soup (though she was more likely to make clam chowder, also without bacon) was more like a cream sauce with potatoes cooked in it. It was creamy, not bacony, so while I think James’s preferred way is perfectly fine, it would really hit the spot for me much more without the bacon.
But if you must put bacon into the soup, this is as good as I’ve ever had, so feel free to mimic me and selflessly make it for your family. Just look out, because I’ll post MY potato soup recipe one day, and you’ll be spoiled for any other pretenders to the potato-soup throne.
I tease, but we did spend a while tonight talking about this after dinner with our dear chosen-family member Debbie, who is as fascinated as we are about how many food “rules” people’s Mom Foods engender. Often it’s that meatloaf has to be a certain way. With Deb, it’s her mom’s brisket — no tomatoes, please! For me it’s no ketchup on meat, especially steak, while for Guy, meatloaf doesn’t feel right without ketchup on it. To Carol, lasagna has hard-boiled eggs in it; that’s just the way things are, and for Carin, vinegar in potato salad is Just Wrong.
When I was at BlogHer Food, Jeremy Pepper was sure my Mom Food wouldn’t overlap with his: matzoh brei, or, as he put it at first, “fried matzoh”. But when I went blissful and answered the “preserves or salt” question correctly (salt, of course! could it be otherwise? don’t tell me you put preserves on yours; it’s best if I don’t know), he and I spent a good ten minutes talking about the way our moms’ Jewish food had to be, and of course both applesauce and sour cream go on latkes! who would think otherwise? and so on.
I love the odd idiosyncrasies that grow up around food. I love that everyone I talk to, even people like Deb without a lot of emotion around food in general, can point to a thing or two that, if it’s made a certain way, it’s “right”, and all other ways are at least a little bit “wrong”. We’re weird and alluring creatures, we people, and I love us.
Oh, and Jeremy? I’ve made a kosher version of this with a teaspoon of smoked paprika instead of the bacon, and schmaltz in place of bacon grease, and James loved it.
James’s Potato Soup
Which is to say, the soup I make for James because he thinks that’s the right way
1 lb. bacon, chopped
2 onions, chopped
8 medium thin-skinned potatoes, unpeeled, and chopped or sliced (or use russets, but peel them)
2 small carrots, optional, chopped
2 ribs celery, optional, chopped
6 cups liquid (water, chicken stock, or some combination; I usually mix it half and half)
plenty of freshly ground black pepper
spices/herbs to taste (I usually toss in a half teaspoon or so of Costco’s salt-free seasoning, because I bought a big jar of it forty million years ago, and it’s not even half gone yet)
Cook bacon over medium heat in a 6-quart soup pot, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Remove bacon from grease and set aside. DO NOT throw out the bacon grease. All the important calories and nitrates are in there! Add the onions and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining ingredients, including the set-aside bacon, and a little more liquid if necessary to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook uncovered, stirring every now and then, for 60-90 minutes, until the soup is good and thick and the potatoes fall apart when you look at them too hard. [Alternative cooking method: Pressure-cook the soup for 20 minutes and quick-release, then cook a little longer on the stove if it’s not as thick as you like it.]