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October Soup #1: Vegetable Cheese Soup

October 3, 2009

I have a large collection of cookbooks. Some I reference weekly. Others are oddities I pull out for party tricks. Others are pieces of my own personal history.

Last October, when I visited my grandmother for the last time, she told me I could sort through her small cookbook collection and take the ones I was interested in. One of the ones I chose had been a gift to Grandmama from my own mother. It was a cookbook called Encoure! Opera: Organization of People in Ellendale for the Restoration of the Arts. This cookbook had been an early 1990’s fundraiser in Ellendale, North Dakota, to help raise money to restore the town’s opera house. My mother had purchased it while my family lived in Ellendale, a small (population under 1,600 in the 2000 census) town in southern North Dakota.

Compilation cookbooks made for fund-raising are always interesting (if you’re interested in seeing how America cooks) and sometimes distressing (if you’re interested in seeing how America cooks). Many of the recipes in books like this call for assemblage–a can of this soup or vegetable, a jar of Cheeze Wiz, instant pudding, etc. This may be fun and it may be tasty, but I don’t really consider it cooking and it doesn’t usually fit how my household eats.

However, other recipes call for whole foods and require cooking–and there’s a number of well-known contributors: Barbara Bush, Lady Bird Johnson, Phil Jackson, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter (someone obviously hit up the presidents or their wives), Bob Hope, and regional celebrities of that time and generation. (It has been almost 20 years…) I also recognize some community names from my time in North Dakota, and its bittersweet, as some of them, particularly one woman from my family’s church, passed away since then.

I look for ways to adapt assemblage recipes into whole foods recipes, and I did that to one gem from this book this week. Originally from Beryl Ginsbach of the Ellendale Historical Society, I tossed out the canned cream of chicken soup and American Cheese and added milk and cheddar cheese instead.

It’s a delightful, vegetable-y, fall soup.

Vegetable Cheese Soup, compliments of North Dakota

In a large Dutch oven, saute in 1 T. butter or bacon fat, 1 chopped leek (onion may be substituted), 1 diced green pepper, 3 stalks celery, and 2-3 carrots. (Vegetables should measure about 1 C. each).

Add 1 quart chicken or vegetable broth.

Add 2 diced potatoes. (About 2 medium potatoes, preferably red-skinned. Peel them if you wish.)

Add 1 bay leaf.

Cook for 20 minutes, or until tender.

Add 1/2 lb. chopped broccoli, 1/2 lb. chopped cauliflower, and 3 C. whole milk. (If you must use skim, which I really don’t recommend, add a bit of cream to thicken it out.) Heat, but do not boil or the milk will curdle. Add 1/2 lb. cubed cheddar cheese and heat. Salt and pepper to taste. The amount of salt you use will depend on the state of the stock and your own preference.

Enjoy! This soup is delicious the next day, too.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Rachel Bennett permalink
    October 4, 2009 7:22 pm

    Dear Joy,

    What great fun to read your blog and remember your daily muffin treats. This particular entry reminds me of the Willing Workers and their pork cake…..


    • Joy permalink*
      October 4, 2009 8:07 pm


      Thanks! You don’t, by chance, have a copy of this particular pork cake recipe, do you? I’ve been missing it for years and I’d love to have (and post) another copy of it. Peace, friend.

  2. Rachel Bennett permalink
    October 9, 2009 7:57 pm

    I do indeed! Can you see my email when I post a comment? If so, send me off a little message and I’ll send the recipe to you. If not, let me know how else I can get it to you. I look at it at least once a year just for the full-on giggles-

  3. Andy permalink
    October 12, 2009 11:38 pm

    Joy, a friend sent me a link to your blog so I could see her friends’ excellent short film; congratulations, and thanks for your creativity. Additionally, carrots were on sale for 35-cents-a-pound at my local grocery this weekend. I didn’t make my weekly soup yesterday for lack of carrot-soup inspiration, but I have a renewed definition of “epiphany” after having read further on the blog of the 70’s people who produced a multimedia procreation announcement. You see, two weeks ago some friends visited from Wisconsin so we could have a baby shower for them here in GR. Along the way, a gas station with a sink prohibitive to Nalgene-filling refused to process a credit card for a one dollar jug of water. Pork rinds were 3 bags for 5 dollars and two remained at my house. One was pulverized and mixed with skim milk to approximate the whole milk I lacked for your recipe. There’s a pot-full of tasty soup chilling on my back porch; thanks again. Oh, and pork cake sounds like something the internet needs to know about.

  4. Joy permalink*
    October 13, 2009 8:32 am

    I can’t decide if your use of pork rinds is decidedly inspired or just plain gross. Anyway, kudos for the creativity. Glad you liked the film; the responses have been interesting. I’ve been asked if it’s true (it is, obviously) and told that it’s dour. I’d like to think of it more as realistic. I wasn’t really joking about sentimentality either. Peace, Joy

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