Friday, September 27, 2013

A Simple White Bean Soup


In my family, there is not much left of lore.  But those little stories that remain, linger in my mind. My mother used to tell the story of how my grandmother Ruth hated soup.  Her father Abraham, wished upon her a husband that loved it.  And indeed, my grandfather Leo was a soup lover.  Somehow Ruth grew to accept and embrace whatever it was that she hated about soup.   Her recipe box reveals that she made cold and hot, foreign and domestic versions of the stuff.  Minted Pea, Vichyssoise, Cold Cream of Curried Chicken, and Potato Chowder.


Shuffling through her box and finding the recipe card for 'Bean Soup' made me think of wandering through a flea market a few years ago.  In a small stall next to some old tarnished silverware, I stared down at a large box full of black and white photographs.  Unclaimed photos of people, their names and stories lost in time.  If I'd never rescued Ruth's recipe box from my father's attic, all of those recipes would have become as irrelevant as the old photographs.  Life, and everything it's filled with: people, travels, meals, stories, and the photographs by which we hope to remember it all--just as ephemeral as a bowl of soup. We'd better dig in.

Ruth's Bean Soup (as written by Ruth)

Soak 1 lb white beans overnight. Drain and add ham bone and 3 quarts water.
Simmer, covered, 2 hrs.
Then add 3 onions, 3 stalks of celery w. tops
all finely chopped, 1 c. mashed potatoes
2 minced cl garlic and 1/4 c. chopped parsley
Simmer another hr- remove bone, dice meat.

Serves 6-8 or 4 for one dish supper.

(My notes: I only used 2 onions.  I finely diced them, along with the celery and garlic cloves, in the food processor.  When I removed the ham bone to dice the meat, I pureed about 2 cups of the soup in the food processor.  Ruth called for mashed potatoes, but I added one russet potato, peeled and chopped. Fresh rosemary made a delicious garnish.)


  1. Oh so tender... I do hope "Ruth's box" becomes a book one day. At least for R. You know you inspired me to start s recipe box a year ago for my kids? It keeps growing... and so do the stories...

    1. Oh Amelia, Thank you for telling me about your recipe box. Your kids will be so lucky to have that. And in this digital age, how rare to have something "tangible" anymore.

  2. Oh yes, you are transitioning into fall deliciously. I might have to buy a ham bone this week.

    1. Denise, I had to call around the city to find a ham bone. It appears I am too eager for fall, as my local Whole Foods was not carrying them. And indeed, today it's 83 degrees outside.

    2. Funny. It's warm here today too. But tomorrow just might be a bean soup kind of day.

  3. I on the other hand love soup, and this one looks so comforting with fall weather quickly approaching. I always get a melancholic feeling when I come across boxes of photographs and post cards from the past. It always makes wonder about those people, their history, their families. And, the reason for my melancholy, why they ended up in a stall of a flea market instead of a family attic.


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