Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Zuppa di Lenticchi (Lentil soup)

Soup's on!
We're doing "vegetarian" tonight. This is Lentil soup or, as my Italian grandmother would have called it, Zuppa di Lenticchi .
I have always gone to one of my favorite cookbooks for good soups. The Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Lo Pinto is my favorite. If you love Italian cooking, this is one of the best there is. I learned this from my Mom. She had the book before I did.
Mine is a pocket book addition and there is no additional writing in it. No added notes, no comments. I have changed recipes and tried different ways of making these recipes but I've never written the changes in my cookbook. I guess I'm not my mother's daughter when it comes to writing down the alterations to recipes.
Look inside of her old edition of the same book....
Every recipe that she ever fixed us is rewritten, commented on, added to and pretty well changed into a new artistic form by Jacqueline. It's amazing.
This is one page on making Rice Torta. It's incredible!
Mom should have written her own cookbook. There are versions here that would have impressed Julia Child enough to want to try an "Italian" cookbook.
There are pages upon pages of copious notes and revisions. There are even letters from my grandmother on how to make Gnocchi and Risotto Milanaise.
Seeing my grandma's handwritting brings back so many memories.
It's like she and my mother are standing there in my kitchen watching me cook. I can hear them say, "Now, follow the recipe but always taste what you are cooking to see if it tastes good. Add what you think it needs." I think that a good portion of dinner was eaten... before dinner. Tasting became a common prerequisite to eating dinner.
Grandma writes about the Risotto, "Italian way, add little broth. Keep it bubbly. As soon as absorbed add a little more, about a ladle and so on until cooked. Don't let it get soft. Add some cheese and serve."
The letter with the Gnocchi recipe in it says Gnocchi.. a la Grandma Fracchia.(That was her sister.) Then she says something about potatoes being salted and putting salt in the flour. She thinks it's too much salt so Mom should be careful. The "directions are not very plain".  These are not recipes that have been written down before, if ever. These are recipes that have been told to someone for many generations. Recipes that you had to learn by watching someone put them together. Grandma says "Jo gave me this [recipe]." Jo was my great aunt. Her sister. They got along with each other and my grandma didn't get along with everyone. 
So I made Lentil soup tonight.
I went downtown to the grocery store and got some good, fresh bread to go with the soup. When I came home I walked into the house and it smelled like my grandma's kitchen. The fragrance was overwhelming. I expected Grandma to be standing in front of the stove with that old apron that looked like she never took it off and the flowery dress. The front of the apron dirty from the wiping of her hands all day long.
I remember the way she smelled, too..... like a mix of perfume, Cody face powder, dampness, celery and garlic.... and  I remember her telling me to" Stir the soup.", or whatever was in the pot on the wood stove.  She would sit down and rest while I stirred.
So, after I put the bread on the counter, I went over to my Lentil soup and I stirred the soup.
The memories were like tears.... the smell of soup cooking in my kitchen took me to all the kitchens of my childhood.

And look what else I found in my mom's cookbook....
A little birthday card from my sister. I don't know why it was in the cookbook. Was it to Mom? Did she use it to mark a good recipe? She saved all the cards that anyone ever sent her and she dated everything. But this one is not dated. From my sister's handwriting I would guess it was when Sis was quite young. How sweet it is....marking the Salso Con Carne E Funghi (meat and mushroom sauce).

Time for dinner. Got to go stir the soup and slice some bread.....


  1. Oh yum! I love lentil soup! My Italian grandfather was a chef and there was nothing like his cooking! This looks so delicious! :) Cute card too! (P.S. Hope Brownie is continuing to feel better every day!)

  2. I love lentil soup...and Gnocchi. My son asked me to make Gnocchi for his wedding reception and I couldn't turn him down even though I had never made it and his wedding was in another town about three hours from here!! I turned out great but I'm not sure I'd do it again...

    great post filled with precious memories...bet that soup was good.

  3. Did you ever see the Mexican movie called "Like Water for Chocolate"? Let me just say, don't cry into the soup while you're making it or everyone that eats it will cry too! What fantastic cook books those are. I have one with my Great Grandma May's handwriting and additives all through it and i love looking at it all. Keeps them living.

  4. What lovely memories you have of your grandmother and mother in the kitchen cooking. I have the same memories of my mother making raviolis, gnocchis and other dishes. The only thing I hate is that she never took the time to teach me. Hope you enjoyed the soup it looked delicious. How is Brownie doing? Have a blessed day. Madeline

  5. I've always told my daughters,
    If I die, look in my cookbooks and sewing box
    I'm there
    Love your story today of your soup and your family..truly I did

  6. I love lentil soup but mine is very different, yours does look yummy!

  7. What a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing!


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