Well, actually it was called “Spoon-a-Thon,” but since soups of all
kinds were the stars of the day, it was really a “Soup-a-thon.” Or
at least, that’s what I called it!
The event was a fund-raiser for the Montclair
Historical Society (MHS), which oversees four
properties, including the Israel Crane House,
where it was held. Several local restaurants
participated by offering tastings of their best
seasonal soups. Other activities took place
throughout the day, as well, including story
telling, House tours, and meeting MHS’ new
Of course, as part of this Big Event, I was inside the Crane House,
cooking up some tasty soup of my own over the open fire. I made
“A Turnip Soop,” per Hannah Glasse’s instructions in her cookbook
The Art of Cookery Made Plain & Easy (1747):
A Turnip Soop.
Take a Gallon of Water, and a Bunch
of Turnips, pare them, save three or
four out, put the rest into the Water,
with half an Ounce of whole Pepper,
an Onion stuck with Cloves, a Blade
of Mace, and half a Nutmeg bruised,
a little Bundle of Sweet Herbs, a large
Crust of Bread; let these boil an Hour
pretty fast, then strain it through a Sieve,
squeezing the Turnips through, wash
and cut a Bunch of Salary very small,
set it on in the Liquor on the Fire, cover
it close, and let it stew. In the mean
time cut the Turnips you saved into
Dice, and two or three small Carrots
clear scraped, and cut in little pieces;
put half these Turnips and Carrots into
the Pot with the Salary, and the other
half fry brown with fresh Butter. You
must flour them first, and two or three
Onions peeled, and cut in thin Slices,
and fry’d brown; then put them all into
the Soop, with an Ounce of Vermicella.
Let your Soop boil softly till the Salary
is quite tender, and your Soop good.
Season it with Salt to your Palate.
I made a batch at home for display purposes, and then I worked
on another throughout the course of the day. It takes several
hours to prepare and cook, as it’s not exactly a “simple” soup.
In fact, few historic soups are. Most are comprised of not only
multiple ingredients, but they also require numerous steps…cook
this, strain that, push this through a sieve, fry these, chop those,
and so on. It’s far more complicated than your basic modern-day
routine of “open, pour into a pan, heat, and eat!”
I chose this soup because it calls for assorted root vegetables
that would have been available in the fall. At the same time, it
didn’t require a meat base, as so many others of the 18th and
early 19th centuries do. It provided me with a challenge, too, one
that I was eager to tackle: I needed “an ounce of Vermicella.” Yep,
I had to make some pasta. What fun!
Fortunately, there’s a receipt for Vermicelli in the same edition (1747)
of Glasse’s The Art of Cookery:
To make Vermicella.
Mix Yolks of Eggs and Flower together
into a pretty stiff Paste, so as you can
work it up cleverly, then roll it as thin
as it is possible to roll the Paste. Let
it dry in the Sun; and when it is quite
dry, with a very sharp Knife cut it as
thin as possible, and keep it in a dry
Place, it will run up like little Worms,
as Vermicella does; though the best
way is to run it through a coarse Sieve,
whilst the Paste is soft. If you want some
to be made in haste, dry it by the Fire,
and cut it small. It will dry by the Fire
in a quarter of an Hour. This far exceeds
what comes from abroad being fresher.
I just love that last line, don’t you? Making your own is “fresher” and
“far exceeds” any from some foreign land. It sounds oh, so 2012-ish,
doesn’t it?! But I digress. Back to the soup…
Now, I’ve made my own pasta many times, yes? HA! Yeah, NO! Well,
actually, I have made noodles a few times, but that was years ago.
Of course, I’ve often seen pasta of all kinds being made on various
and sundry TV cooking shows (“Lidia’s [Bastianich] Italy in America”
on PBS springs to mind). In any event, I took Glasse’s receipt and
dove in. I made a small amount first, with a handful or two of flour
and just one egg yolk. The end product was just fine, but, boy, was
it a struggle. The dough was rather dry at first, making it difficult to
work with. I eventually got the consistency I wanted, though, and
I rolled it and cut out the pasta. Then I decided to make another
batch, only this time, I used two egg yolks, instead of just one. Well,
it wasn’t any easier! In the end, all was well and good as before, but
golly, what was the problem? Was I doing something wrong? Or was
that how it’s supposed to be?
Thing is, I remembered that those TV-show cooks used the whole
egg, whereas Glasse’s receipt calls for the yolks ONLY. It was rather
puzzling. So finally, I went online to see just what others had done.
And guess what? No one, not a single person, used ONLY the yolks.
Nope, they all used the ENTIRE egg, the yolk AND the white. It was
an interesting discovery, that’s for sure. Ahh, well, perhaps Glasse’s
receipt is truly unique! Or maybe it’s how “it was done” in the 18th
century? Or perhaps, it’s just another possible method, then and
now. Or something!
Enough of that. Here are the few photos I was able to take during
the recent “Soup-” um, “Soop” er, I mean, “Spoon-a-Thon.”
Oh, and the plated soup shown first is what I made in advance.
And yes, I ate a bowl of it. I’m not a big fan of turnips, but this
was mighty good! HUZZAH!