Monday, February 08, 2010

Last Harvest and Hoover Soup

It's now officially the end of the 2009 gardening season. I waded (literally) out into the garden this afternoon and harvested the last few leeks. The garden is now devoid of food. Madam admonished me this morning to use more canned tomatoes or we are not going to have storage space for the 2010 crop. Tomato soup with leeks is the menu for tonight so I will be able to kill two quarts of crushed tomatoes and a pint of tomato sauce and that will leave on 40-50 quarts more to use before June.

This is going to be an elemental soup on the order of the Depression Era soup known as 'Hoover Soup'. Hoover soup was a common offering on the soup lines of the depression and while recipes varied (usually with what was available) it almost always was just canned tomatoes, potatoes and onions. Sometimes a  cabbage would find its way in but mostly it was the basic three and definitely no meat or even broth. Even though it simple 'Hoover Soup' is surprisingly good in its own minimalist way. This leek and tomato soup is going to be of the same order...just leeks and tomatoes, salt and pepper and a little fresh thyme. A little dollop of balsamic vinegar might find its way in but I won't know until I taste it.

My Dad used to tell of his days in the children's home and the big pots of 'Hoover Soup'. My Dad and his brother spent a few years in the 'home' during the depression when his widowed mother could no longer care for the children. The home was on a small farm and the children grew vegetables and raised chickens for eggs and meat and evidently were pretty much self sufficient though obviously not living too high on the hog. My Dad even told of the boys walking the railroad tracks that passed near the school gathering up the coal that would fall off the coal trains coming out of West Virginia and down to Norfolk so that they could heat the school and dormitories. Tough times but my Dad actually considered his time in the 'home' pretty positively. He and his brother managed to eat and get an education and being relieved of the burden of the two boys allowed his mother and sister to survive what was a very, very tough time for the folks of Appalachia. He and his brother weren't the only non-orphans in those days in what was ostensibly an orphanage. Even after he was grown and successful he always considered keeping a vegetable garden a necessity and that probably accounts, to some extent, for my same desire to garden and be somewhat self sufficient.

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