Here is the text for my holiday soup story For Today's Woman magazine.
Whether you are throwing a party or going to one at someone else’s house, soup is a great menu item to consider for a crowd during the holidays. Soups can go together quickly and are fairly easy to keep warm or cold. The holidays are also a good time to roll out those soup recipes that are just too large or rich for a family weeknight meal. But more than that, soups are traditional fare for most holiday meals.
Margaret Wilson of Indian Land likes to serve oyster stew to her company, or take it to church dinners. “It’s easy to throw together,” she says. So easy, in fact, that she seemed a bit embarrassed to give out the recipe. “It goes together in just minutes,” she explains. Easy or not, the soup is much requested at Belair United Methodist Church.
My mother makes fruit soup at least once each holiday season. I remember having it when we went to my grandmother’s house in Iowa at New Year’s. Actually, we had oyster stew and fruit soup. When I mention fruit soup to my friends they say they have never heard of it, and they sound a bit dubious about what it might taste like. Fruit soup, or fruktsuppe in Norway, is usually served warm and is made from dried fruits such as raisins and prunes. It may have dairy such as cream or milk, or may even have alcohol such as brandy or champagne. In many other countries, the soup is usually served cold in the summer with fresh fruit that is in season. Either way it is served, it is usually sweet and so is considered to be more of a dessert than a main course. My mother likes to serve it with lefse, a Norwegian potato flatbread.
In some cultures, beet soup, or borscht, is considered a Christmas soup. The Polish call it barszcz and serve a strictly vegetarian version as the first course on Christmas Eve. Borscht is chock full of root vegetables and goes together quickly, but traditionally it is prepared several days in advance so that it has an opportunity to develop acidity.
Kwanzaa, a week-long celebration honoring African heritage, has several soups as part of its traditional fare. Peanut soup is common throughout Africa and has migrated to the U.S. as slaves in the South prepared it with local peanuts. The simplest recipe calls for two parts chicken stock, two parts shelled peanuts, and one part milk or cream. Another popular Kwanzaa soup is African Tomato Avocado Buttermilk Soup.
Hanukah also falls in December. Although it is a minor Jewish holiday, it still carries its’ traditional holiday fare, and the most easily-recognized food (besides potato latkes) has to be Chicken and Matzo Ball Soup. This Jewish staple is as revered for its healing powers as it is for its comforting taste and unique texture.
No matter the holiday you and your family observe, there is a soup recipe to help you celebrate. And most soups benefit from advance preparation, allowing the flavors to marry before serving to guests. Warm it up in a crockpot, add some crackers or lefse or cornbread and you’ll have a hearty meal to serve to your guests or to take to someone else’s party.
And my mom's fruit soup recipe, revised slightly:
By Mary Goetsch
2 Qts boiling water
1 C chopped prunes
1/2 C raisins
1 6-oz package dried mixed fruit, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon, plus a little grated peel
1/2 C sugar-(or to taste)
1/2 C tapioca*
Juice of 1 orange, plus a little grated peel
1 5-oz package dried apple rings, chopped
1 can good quality pie cherries packed in water
Cook all but the pie cherries at medium low heat until the tapioca is done and the fruit is tender. Stir in the pie cherries and heat through. If you like the way the soup looks, you are done. But if you’d prefer, you can add a couple of drops of red food color to make the soup look more appetizing.
Mary likes to serve it with lefse, which is a Norwegian potato flatbread, but it can be served alone. Serve in small ramekins or punch cups. It is very rich.
*You may use regular or pearl tapioca, but if you use pearl, be sure you soak it overnight before using
Actually, the only revision I made was to cut the sugar in half. I've always looked forward to the fruit soup and then when I get the first bite I remember it's awful sweetness. Well darn if she doesn't use and ENTIRE CUP OF SUGAR with all that FRUIT! So I cut the sugar to 1/2 a cup, and then I simmered the orange and lemon rinds in the soup while it was cooking. Now it's something I can see myself eating a lot more of. I'll maybe put some on ice cream, but I think I'll really stir some into my morning oatmeal. Toss in a few nuts and I think I'll have breakfast fit for a queen.
And many many thanks to neighbor Mary for help with the food styling. She really likes that and is creative that way.