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Food Porn Friday: Soup's up!

 

"Pardon me, waiter...there's some soup in my cheese."

"Pardon me, waiter ... there's some soup in my cheese."

I admit with some sadness that my personal history of soup was lacking before I entered my 20s. Before then, the only soups that I enjoyed on anything close to a regular basis were gumbo (of course), chicken noodle -- especially while sick, home from school, and usually watching "The Price is Right" -- and matzoh ball, which we would always enjoy on Passover, and then leftover once or twice in the following months.

Soup wasn't something I considered seriously, or even considered at all, for that matter. Sure, I loved a great bowl of dark roux gumbo, as well as those wonderful Pesach matzoh balls, but when the food cravings kicked in, I can't say that soup was the first thing to enter my hungry mind.

My first truly revelatory soup experience happened in my college years, during a particularly bitter St. Louis winter at Washington University. After trudging through the snow all the way across campus for lunch at my fraternity house -- nearly killing myself several times on ice-slicked sidewalks -- I was greeted in the kitchen by a culinary combination that, to this day, I still consider to be something sacred: a hot stock pot filled with cream of tomato soup and freshly pressed grilled cheese sandwiches.

In the food world, there are few better pairings. For me, it's up there with cookies and milk, pastrami on rye, or caviar and blini. Absolutely magical.

Soup became still more important to me when I moved to New York, where winter lingers too long into February and March like the worst of unwanted house guests. I always felt like telling winter to get off my couch and start looking for a damned job. That sort of bone-chilling cold is something I had to learn how to endure and accept as a part of life; but along with that life lesson came another: soup makes a bad winter bearable. I remember standing in line for the better part of an hour -- in a raging blizzard, no less -- for a bowl of soup. Naturally it wasn't just any bowl of soup, but the soul-lifting, utterly transfixing goodness of lobster bisque from Al "The Soup Nazi" Yeganeh, at his original location on West 55th St. in Manhattan. Elaine was right: soup that good makes you weak in the knees. You cannot eat it standing up.

After that, soup became something that I would actively seek out or even cook, from creamy New England clam chowder to hearty white bean, Italian wedding soup with its pasta pearls, split pea with hunks of smokey ham, spicy Korean hangover soup, and one of my absolute favorites of all time: Japanese ramen, brimming with roasted pork, bamboo shoots, scallions, a fish cake, nori, and a soft-boiled egg that, when broken, gives the hot broth the most amazing, custardy consistency.

Also vying for my top affections, when it comes to soup, is a classic French onion, like the one I recently enjoyed at Tableau, topped with a generous fistful of gooey Gruyere . Another life lesson: Any dish featuring that much melted French cheese is going to be worth the calories. And if you disagree?

NO SOUP FOR YOU.


Native New Orleans food writer Scott Gold, author of The Shameless Carnivore, has written for Gourmet, The New Orleans Advocate, Gambit, ThrillistEdible Brooklyn, Tasting Table, The Faster Times, and other publications. His Food Porn Friday column for NolaVie offers a weekly mouth-watering photo essay designed to start culinary conversations in the Big Easy. Find him on Twitter @scottgold.