On February 19, 1898 an ice storm buffeted the small town of Litchfield, Connecticut. The town’s book of days chronicles the event, which continued for forty-eight hours, knocking down trees, tearing shingles off roofs, piling snow upon sidewalks, and bringing the town to an eerie halt. For days the roads were impassable, and residents described how “millions of icicles hung from the electric wires which sagged in great loops and finally broke.” The “very blades of grass stood up stalagmites of ice.”
Perhaps the inhabitants of Litchfield, chilled and housebound, with little in left their cupboards, warmed their bones with such a simple soup as this one from the 1882 “cookery manual” Soup and Soup Making.
Collect the scraps left from breakfast and dinner, for instance, a half pint of soup, a gill of gravy, a half pint of mashed turnip or potato, a little macaroni cooked with cheese, a sour baked apple or broiled chop or steak, etc., etc.; put them in the stock pot or soup kettle with sufficient cold water, simmer for an hour, removing any scum that rises, then strain and set aside. Next day remove the grease, put the soup to cook, and when it boils, season with salt and pepper, and if it seems to need other seasoning add a pinch of thyme, or celery seed, or a teaspoonful of sugar. It is sometimes well to put half a bay leaf and two or three cloves in the kettle with the scraps.
The flavorings and spices required in a mixed soup of this description depend greatly upon the nature of the scraps used. If they are mostly light and delicate, thyme, mace celery, or parsley can be added; if dark and heavy, cloves, bay leaf, sweet marjoram or a little Worcestershire sauce, or walnut or other catsup can be used more appropriately. Sometimes an ounce each of butter and flour cooked together in a saucepan till browned, and then added to the soup, give it the very thing it lacks; or it may be that the flour stirred with a gill of cold sweet cream is what is needed to make it a perfect soup.
To select and harmonize the materials for a mixed soup is one of the “best evidences of culinary capacity”; and the cook who can do this successfully, is qualified to prepare a soup of the most complex as well as one of the simplest character, without regard to its name or class.