Tater Soup

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This soup will win no beauty pageants, but it will sweep Miss Congeniality every time.

One of the items I brought to my new life in this house from my grandma’s house is her tater box. It’s a wooden box with a hinged lid designed f or housing potatoes, onions, and other root veggies. Carved in the front are the words “Tater Box.”

Mr. B thinks I’m a bit off. Despite growing up only 50 miles from one another, we managed to evolve from completely different cultures. I told him I had a tater box, and he looked at me blankly. “What’s a tater box?”

I pointed to the tall wooden box across the room. “One of those. You put taters in it. It says ‘Tater Box’ on the front.”

The look he gave me after that is sadly all too common in our household.

Anyway, I really hesitated to post this soup, because it’s not much of a recipe. Most of my recipes aren’t, really. I make several great dishes a week that never make it to this blog because I don’t feel they merit a post because they’re too easy or they don’t have exact measurements.

Cooking is not a set event for me; it’s like the difference between a speech and a conversation. In a speech, you are 100% prepared, you’ve got notes, and you won’t get much input until the end. A speech is like baking, I suppose. If you screw up at the beginning, you can lose your audience, and you don’t know how much they like you until the applause or lack there of. Cooking is a conversation – you can generally get feedback all along the way.

I approach cooking as something I can change, tweak, and fix the whole way through. Actually, now that I think about it, it’s a lot like teaching. I have an outline, but the class (ingredients) can take it in a different direction, and that’s usually a great thing when it happens. I rarely make a dish the same way twice, and I rarely teach a lesson exactly the same way twice.

I realized how I think about cooking after a conversation with Mr. B one afternoon. I sometimes berate Mr. B for assuming that people know more than they do about the things he’s good at and fields in which he is knowledgeable (which tend to involve electronics, mechanics, and, well, everything in general… he’s well-rounded). We were talking about this one day, and the conversation eventually led to Food Network and my massive dislike of Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade. (Her new show is better, but basically just undoes her previous show: “Instead of buying precut veggies, cut your own to save money!” Le sigh.)

Anyhow, he pointed out to me that there are people who need her show. He reminded me that everyone doesn’t look at 10 things in a kitchen cabinet and see eighteen possible dinners that are accessible in less than 45 minutes. He reminded me that I’m the person friends call when they forget how to cook rice or have never peeled a garlic clove. And then I remembered all the painfully simple recipes I’ve discovered for the first time, slapping my forehead and wondering how I didn’t come up with them. I was assuming that because cooking is easy and natural for me, it is for everyone else. Oops.

So, for anyone who has ever been intimidated by cooking, and for anyone who has their granny’s tater box brimming with spuds, and for anyone who needs to please everyone at dinner, please accept my humble tater soup. It’s easy to change up with toppings or additional veggies (broccoli, etc.). You can dress it up for company or have it plain. Kinda like me.

Tater Soup

Serves five really hungry people. Adjust servings by adding/subtracting taters. It’s less of a recipe and more of a framework.

1 tsp olive oil

1 onion or leek (clean that leek’s insides if you use it

5ish russet potatoes (I’m sure you can use any kind… these are cheap and always on hand)

3 cloves garlic (to taste, of course)

32 oz veggie stock, chicken stock, or water  (I’ve used all three and it always turns out fine)

white pepper

rosemary

thyme

salt

optional toppings and additions (see below)

Dice onion and cook in pot or dutch oven over medium heat while you peel and dice potatoes. When onions are soft, toss potatoes in and cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Toss in minced garlic and cook until you smell the garlic. Don’t burn it – that is sad and ruins everything. Pour in liquid and scrape bottom of pot to get the flavor of the fond (that’s the fancy name for all the browned delicious stuck to the bottom of the pan that you want to deglaze to get back in the soup). Add white pepper, rosemary and thyme and simmer until potatoes are soft.

Squish soup with a potato masher to thicken it to your liking. Add salt and serve with any of the following toppings:

green onions, chives, sour cream, crème fraiche, grated cheese, crispy bacon, tomatillo sauce, fried sausage, fried ham, sautéed mushrooms, herb butter, cream cheese, parsley, cilantro

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