I am not making it up when I say I’m not a great cook. I have found ways to mess up recipes that would make even the most uninitiated chefs laugh. My mom loves to tell the story about the time I tried making chicken salad and, thinking I had it under control (and having failed to read the recipe closely), I added equal parts mayo and brown mustard. That’s like a quarter cup of brown mustard.
These are the ways I mess up in the kitchen. Creative ways, let’s say.
I have never in my life made soup from scratch. I wanted to try making soup last winter, but as I was sharing a kitchen with my landlord while in Utah, the only soup I ate came in cans and took 3 minutes to zap in the microwave. So this year, as the weather has started to cool and I’m nestling into Autumn in the city, I decided I’d like to try soup again. For the first time.
And in true form, I decided that I’d start not with a simple broth-based vegetable medley, but a hearty winter squash soup. I found a recipe on Smitten Kitchen (sans croutons), I made my list and headed to the store, and I came home to have a go at my first soup. (Yes, I realize that recipe has butter and some cream in it, and I’m trying not to eat dairy. I’m going to make an exception.)
There are many things I don’t know about making soup. Namely, all of them.
But anytime I’ve told anyone I’ve never made soup, they gasp in culinary shock and proclaim, “But it’s so easy!” I don’t know what to tell ya. Soup wasn’t one of the things my mom made for us growing up. Probably because soup wasn’t one of the things her mom made for her growing up. (Have you heard the one about the guy who asked his new wife why she always cut that last 2 inches of the fish off before putting the fillet in the pan? “You know, I don’t know,” she said. “It’s the way my mom always did it.” Curious, she asked her mom, who told her daughter, “It’s the way my mom always did it.” Now ever more curious, she asked her elderly mother why she always cut the last 2 inches off. “Because the fillets from the store were always 10 inches long, and all I had was an 8 inch pan.”)
But I digress…
I don’t know anything about making soups. And one important thing about soups is, before you make it you should be certain you have a large enough pan for said soup. Which I don’t. Which I didn’t really think about until I’d prepped all my ingredients. Chopped onion, minced garlic, fresh herbs, a huge bowl of chopped squash. And not a pan to fit it all in anywhere in sight.
What I don’t know about cooking, I make up for in math skills (says the Liberal Arts major…). Never one to let a tiny thing like a pan keep me from making my first soup, I halved everything and simply used the best pan on hand to make soup. Twice.
Once I sorted out that minor issue, making the soup really wasn’t all that hard. It’s time consuming, to be sure. Even without having to repeat the process, the onion chopping and squash peeling take some real elbow grease. Is that the part of cooking so many people enjoy? I knew it’d be a labor-intensive recipe, so when I saw the store had pre-peeled, pre-chopped butternut squash, I dropped the whole one in my basked like a hot potato!
But that’s one shortcut you can’t even taste in the final product. Because it is delicious. Like, I’ve impressed myself with how good it is. Ok, yes – I had to google how best to get the leaves off fresh thyme. And I realized with the first batch that I forgot to add the ginger and cumin the recipe calls for. I’m clearly still a novice. I added the spices to that first go-round post-haste and wouldn’t you know, the soup was even more amazing than before.
Because it’s just me (and because I’m fairly certain Audrey doesn’t like winter squash soup), I will most likely be eating this new dish for the next week. But this soup is so dang good, I am more than OK with that. And you know what? Even with the hiccups in getting from ingredients to bowl, I’m gonna go ahead and give myself a healthy 7.5 on execution here – because let’s be honest, all that matters in the end is that you stick the landing!