Belgian vegetable soup keeps the cold at bay

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By: Rachel Shenk

Rachel Shenk/Flavor 574

The sun is shining bright and golden as we walk at the park. It slowly makes its way behind the pine trees and the shadows lengthen on the snow. We walk rapidly to keep our circulation going, so our toes, fingers and noses stay warm.

The view around us is stunning. Branches of trees, laden with snow, look like they are top heavy with icing. Picnic tables and benches, piled with snow, resemble soft pillows. The light and the dark play off of each other against a sky of blue.

This is the winter weather of northern Indiana that I like. After a heavy snowfall, I look forward to the quiet and the beauty, and a clear day to enjoy it.

All of this snow takes me back to the crazy January blizzard of 1978. Anyone who lived around here will remember it.

My story starts with this college student going to class as usual and getting excited about the falling snow. My classmates and I found out that our classes were canceled for the next two days.

So the first thing I did was to go to a friend’s house within walking distance of the college and bake some bread. Bread baking seemed the perfect thing to do as the snow fell without interruption for hours on end.

As soon as the bread came out of the oven, still steaming, it went into my shoulder bag. I pulled on my boots and my sheepskin coat and stepped out into a wonderland.

State Road 15 in front of the college was covered with a foot and a half of snow. No traffic moved along the buried road. So I did what I haven’t done since: I laid down in the middle of the road and made a snow angel before tromping to the other side of the street. The bread was delivered to snowbound friends and I continued with my blizzard adventures.

Later, sitting in the cafeteria, a group of us organized and announced an impromptu dance for that evening in the snack shop — against college policy! It was so well attended that a future boyfriend moved in a better stereo system.

With someone flicking the lights off and on, bodies sweated on the improvised dance floor, making the windows fog up, until someone from the administration showed up and shut the party down. Knowing I would be called in for this infraction (which I was later!), I thought that was the end of blizzard-induced activities.

But the next day, a few of us got the bright idea to walk out to “the farmhouse,” a dwelling out on S.R. 119 about two miles from the college, where some of our friends lived.

Once again, I put on my sheepskin coat, some fur-lined leg warmers, my hiking boots, as well as numerous layers of clothes, scarves, a hat and mittens and along with Carl, who was carrying his tiny dog in the pocket of his overcoat, and someone else who I no longer remember, I trudged through deep snow from Main Street to 119.

Our legs wore down from walking through knee-deep snow and as we crossed C.R. 19, the wind gusts were so strong, we thought we might not ever make it to the farmhouse. That trek took a good three hours that felt like ten. By the time we crossed the threshold of the farm’s kitchen where a roaring fire welcomed us, we were chilled to the bone and so happy to see our friends. I thought to myself, “Someday this will all make a good story!”

I’ve never seen a blizzard like that since, and maybe, I will never see one again. But sometimes, when I’m driving through heavy snow, I once again see those fogged up windows as we danced the night away, and feel the excitement of that frosty trek.

Tonight, I’m glad to be home, by the woodstove. Let those temperatures fall, let that snow stay. With a steaming hot bowl of soup and a hunk of sourdough bread, I’ll keep the cold at bay.

Belgian Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup butter
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 sticks of celery, sliced
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 5 to 7 potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 6 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1 small can chunky tomato sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Sauté onions, leeks and celery in melted butter until tender, five or so minutes.
  2. Add carrots and potatoes and sauté for a few more minutes. Add water and tomato sauce. Sprinkle in salt and pepper, bay leaf and basil.
  3. Cook and simmer until vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaf.
  4. Puree with a hand blender, leaving the soup slightly chunky, and serve.

This is really good the second day … and the third!

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