Everyone in my house – okay, we live in an apartment, but whatever – we all love soup. The problem is, making soup usually violates the basic precept by which I gave up my job and stayed home: I want to spend as much quality time with my kids as possible and 30 minutes of hacking at carrots, potatoes, soup and tomatoes doesn’t seem worth it. Then last week, *poof*, an idea: why not cook the vegetables soft and let the kids do the cutting?
Ditch kitchen rule no. 1, “
Don’t touch the knife!” and meet the PLASTIC LETTUCE KNIFE. It looks impressive, but when my 2 year old son Mingus asks, “Can this cut skin?” I’m confident saying, “No”. He’s been happily using it to chop Play-doh. Now, let’s see if he can apply his new-found skills to actual food.
To test drive the process – and understanding that it may not yield haute cuisine – we pull out of the fridge a few humble vegetables: a couple carrots, several stalks of celery, parsnips, potatoes, onions and a turnip.
Within moments, Mingus’ younger brother Beluga, 14 months, is at my legs. My first thought: “Game Over” – no soup today. Instead, I lift him into the sink. Why not let Beluga wash the vegetables?
The important things here are: (1) making sure the baby doesn’t slip. (2) making sure the baby doesn’t fall out of the sink. (3) scrubbing the vegetables – everything on the skin will become part of the broth because we won’t be peeling the vegetables until after they are fully cooked. I forget (4) which is: put a towel down to absorb the copious amount of water that Beluga splashes on the floor.
Once Beluga is done playing with the vegetables (washed with a little help from me), we pile them into a large stock pot, adding clean water and a few herbs. I use a spoon to take the skin off a shallot, throw it into the pot, then add rosemary, sage and a bay leaf. Everything simmers for 45 minutes. I turn off the heat and let everything cool.
Later, I ask Mingus, “Would you like to cut vegetables with your big orange knife?” A huge smile erupts on his face and he runs to the kitchen.
I place the stock pot on the floor, alongside a cutting board and Mingus sits down, knife in hand. He swishes his hands in the soup and drags the vegetables out onto the floor. With a gigantic parsnip in hand he asks, “What is this?” Cutting, the questions continue, “Do we eat the skin?” “Is this too big a piece for Beluga?” …
By the time the chopping is done, Mingus has sampled so much of it, he has no appetite left. Beluga, however, is pointing to his highchair, asking for lunch, and happily devours an entire bowl of soup.
Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik // Little Bear wakes up and declares, “Oh, dear, Mother Bear is not here, and today is my birthday. I think my friends will come but I do not see birthday cake… If I put something in the water I can make Birthday Soup. All my friends like soup.”