I am my mama’s daughter in that neither of us knows how to make just a little bit of soup. The problem is we don’t really follow recipes when we make soup, so it’s a matter of adding some of this to a little bit of that, and oh, look, that would be nice in there, then adjusting the amount of liquid till it all looks right.
Growing up, my brother and I were in charge of doing dishes, and soup making days meant we’d better roll up our sleeves and settle in, because we were gonna be there awhile. Whenever Mom made soup, there were always two, sometimes three, huge pots to be washed, in addition to whatever utensils, cutting boards, and measuring cups she’d used in the process. She would start out with her ingredients in a large Dutch oven, but before she’d gotten all the vegetables added to the stock, she’d realize she needed more room and dig out her humongous soup pot—the one that hung off the edges of the electric coil of the stovetop and was so tall you’d scrape your knuckles on the bottom of the microwave trying to lift the lid. Occasionally even that would runneth over, and she’d have to transfer a few servings to her biggest saucepan (or on a really generous day, back to the Dutch oven) in order to have room to stir.
I try to save myself a few steps (and a lot of pot-washing) and start in my biggest pot, but by doing so, leave myself few options when the volume of soup exceeds the capacity of the vat. I usually end up with a concoction that is too heavy on the “good stuff” and way too light on liquid. I once served a bowl of chicken soup to a guest and by the time she crumbled half a dozen saltines over the top, every bit of the broth had been absorbed; she wouldn’t have missed a drop if I’d given her a fork rather than a spoon.
This heavy-handedness does have its benefits. For a couple hours’ work in the afternoon, Jim and I have tonight’s dinner, lunch a couple times during the week, three dinner-for-two-plus-the-next-day’s-lunch size buckets to put in the freezer, AND a two-quart container to share with a friend. All that’s left is to fire up the griddle to make some grilled cheese sandwiches…