Let’s Celebrate National Soup Month!

January Is National Soup Month. Celebrate by inviting some neighbors in for soup and bread, perhaps folks you don’t know very well. Before you know it, your neighborhood will have its own Soup Night. A delicious way to build community, demonstrate good will, and teach your kids about kindness to others.

OK, enough about Soup Nights. What I really want to do here, in honor of National Soup Month, is highlight the one quality of soup that I draw on almost every week – its flexibility. I hereby give you permission to change any soup recipe in order to accommodate your personal tastes and your pantry, and I’m going to show you how, using myself as an example.

Recently, in a terrific magazine called “All Recipes” (highly recommended), I came across a recipe for Shrimp Chowder. Now we all know about chowders – clam, mostly, but sometimes salmon, or other fish – easy, nourishing, delicious. But this was the first one I remember using shrimp, which I happened to have a bag of in the freezer. That’s what caught my eye. Otherwise, it called for familiar chowder ingredients: milk, potatoes, onions, celery. So, first problem solved: I already have most of the basics on hand.

But this recipe also has some new ingredients, and a couple of problems. One problem: it calls for the addition of white wine. Now, as much as I love wine, I can’t drink it; it gives me ferocious headaches. So, white wine out. It also calls for celery, which is another problem for me because I just cannot abide the taste of cooked celery. So, celery out. Third, the potatoes. I am on a low-carbohydrate diet, and so, following the suggestion of one reader, I decided to substitute chunks of cauliflower instead. Fourth, one key ingredient is cream cheese. Hmmm, that’s unusual. But fortunately, I usually have cream cheese on hand. Fifth, I decided to add chicken stock because I like to layer in that rich flavor.

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