Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tomato Soup and Avoidance

After all the snow, below zero wind chills and slushy roads, I wanted something warm and cozy for dinner last night. And since we have run out of staples like creamer and English muffins, I had to go to the store anyway, so I grabbed ingredients for my second of 52 new recipes that I'm cooking up in 2011. I just googled tomato basil soup yesterday, nothing fancy, chose the recipe with the most positive ratings and bingo. I made creamy Tomato Basil soup paired exquisitely with a savory cheddar and pepper jack grilled cheese sandwich, on the always sophisticated buttery whole grain Wonder white bread. Perfect cold weather comfort food.

The soup was delicious and pretty easy. I did change the recipe, cutting the cream in half and using 1% milk instead, using 1/2 the required butter, and using a large can of whole San Marzano tomatoes with basil and a large can of diced tomatoes since the tomatoes at the store looked sketchy and I was short on time. I might add a little sauteed garlic next time and substitute 1/2 of the tomato juice for chicken stock. I jazzed up my basic grilled cheese using some sharp cheddar and some reduced fat pepperjack, though Joe stuck to his childhood roots and insisted on Kraft American singles for his sandwich. Evidently you don't jack with a classic. I liked this recipe, next time I might find one without cream, especially this summer when tomatoes are amazing and don't need cream hiding their fresh flavor. Do you have a tomato soup recipe that is tried and true? And as a delightful and not entirely skillful blog segue, from some Italy inspired Tomato Basil Soup to the Italy inspired #2 book of 2011! See how I did that, smooth.

I've been avoiding this book. I'm not sure why. I like a good memoir. It has a blurb from Anne Lamott, a writer whose work I adore, on the cover. It has been beloved by many, many women. It has a catchy title. (Look the EAT is made of pasta, how adorable.) But I've probably been avoiding it for exactly those reasons. Everywhere I turned over the last couple of years, someone was reading this book. And that turned me off. Plus the navel gazing attitude of a rich white lady taking a year off to indulgently find herself in three of the most beautiful countries in the world, just reads like a book proposal to me, not real life. Who actually does that and would they be interesting? The answer is Elizabeth Gilbert does that and yes and no.

If you've been living on the moon, or avoid lady books like the plague, then you may have no idea what this book is about, your wife, sister or mother probably does though. Elizabeth Gilbert, talented and successful writer, leaves then divorces her husband for unspecified reasons, and following a deep and debilitating depression, and a devastating break up with her boyfriend, Gilbert decides to spend a year, divided between Italy, for indulgence and food, India, for spiritual growth, and Indonesia for passion and love. And so that's how the book rolls out, just as I'm sure her book proposal outlined before she left. She learns Italian and eats pasta in Rome, she prays and meditates and chants ancient Sanskrit mantras in India and she falls in love with an older Brazilian man in Bali who proceeds to worship and ravish her for the last third of the book. Like clockwork.

I didn't hate this book. I enjoyed the Italy portion the most, simply because, having been there, I could picture where she was in nearly every description of the city and think about how exciting, fascinating, ancient and beautiful that place is, so chockful of history and centuries of art and thought. She touches on a bit of that. Gilbert is a lovely writer and clearly changed her own life by taking this these trips, but the India and Indonesia portions of the book became a bit dull. The supporting characters in all three places were entertaining, but they also seemed slightly fictional. The scenery was lovely, the descriptions and personal revelations were a pleasure to read, but it just left me feeling flat and manipulated by the end. I'm sure this is Gilbert's real life, but it just felt so outlined and planned, like a flushed out book proposal instead of her real life. I'll probably rent the movie version staring Julia Roberts, just to see the Rome part and Javier Bardem part, but this wasn't one of my favorites. So two down, fifty to go. Next up on the book list: Boomsday by Christopher Buckley, a satire so hilarious that I nearly shot Diet Coke out of my nose on my lunch hour, it was kind of tingly.
So enough about me, what are you reading?


Anonymous said...

I have not a recipe, but I have found ONE tomato soup that I will's from Thomas. I know you're familiar with the place from some of the pics of you there. It's hard to force yourself to get tomato soup when they have so many other delicious options on the menu, but sometime you should. That's probably my favorite place in KC to go and eat and have a few beverages.

bethany actually said...

You know, tomato soup is one of those things I rarely like when its homemade. I think it's a texture thing; I can't stand bits of tomato in my soup. *shudder* Therefore my current go-to tomato soup recipe is as follows:

(1) Go to Trader Joe's.
(2) Buy a carton of Organic Creamy Tomato Soup.
(3) At home, pour some into a mug and heat it up. :-)

Actually, now that you can go to TJ's (yay!) you should try that soup. It's really quite delicious.

I've never been the least bit interested in reading Eat, Pray, Love for the very reasons you mentioned it. I am interested in reading Boomsday, though. Chris Buckley wrote the novel that the movie Thank You For Smoking was based on, and I've been meaning to read that book for years.

Finally (to bring this long comment to an end) I just finished reading Bill Bryson's At Home: A Short History of Private Life which was, like all Bryson's books, highly informative and entertaining.

Mike Stalls said...

I, obviously, haven't read the book. The movie WAS actually really good. Even though I think Julia Roberts is an "ugly crier".

Brenda said...

Tomato soup and grilled cheese is my favorite thing evah! Re Gilbert--I was OK with the Italy chapter, but I hated the rest of the book. It felt too much like "well-off white woman uses brown people for enlightenment" for my comfort. It would have been nice if she'd had sone awareness of her privilege. But then again, I'm demanding like that :)

kassie lou said...

Keri, I love Thomas, I'll have to try their soup, thanks for the suggestion! Bethany, you would not have liked this soup, plenty of chunks, but I have the same issue with heavy pulp in orange juice. If I want juice I just want juice, I'll eat an orange if I want pulp. And TJ's should open in March, until then we must wait for Omaha trips. Mike - I need to Netflix the movie, I like Julia and her horsey open mouth laugh. Brenda, I second that on the privilege.