Thursday, June 16, 2005
Valley Forge Cook, French Inmates, ’Frisco Italians: Creators of Soups
By ROGER M. GRACE
Continuing with a look at inventors of soups, we turn to the creation of Vichyssoise, a creamed, cold, potato-leek soup. It’s generally held that the originator was Chef M. Louis Diat.
Given the name of the soup and the moniker of its creator, it might well be assumed that the dish emanates from a Parisian café. Actually, it comes from a hotel restaurant in New York City. As the line went in the picante sauce commercial of recent vintage, “New York City?”
Diat worked at the Ritz-Carlton. The date of his creation, though apparently not supported by evidence, is thought to be 1917.
Cream of potato soup was no innovation, as a perusal of old newspapers shows. The North Adams (Mass.) Transcript offered a recipe for it on March 11, 1899 which started off: “Cream soups are now much in favor on many dinner tables, and can be prepared from any vegetable at hand—but potatoes are always as handy as any, and a potato soup is as generally liked as any.”
In fact, Diat made no claim to having invented potato soup, or creamed potato soup, or even potato soup with leeks. In later years, the chef recounted that as a child in France, he ate warm potato soup, a common dish there, every morning for breakfast, with his mother sometimes cooling it with milk. He began preparing potato and leak soup, himself, at the age of 8.
What, then, did he originate? Coldness. That is to say, his invention was simply serving creamed potato leek soup chilled.
And Diat conjured up the name “Vichyssoise,” derived from the spa Vichy.
Who invented Philadelphia pepper pot? The answer is the chef—his name unknown—at Valley Forge. He was, so the story goes, ordered by General George Washington during the harsh winter of 1777-1778 to produce a soup “that will warm and strengthen the body of a soldier and inspire his flagging spirit.”
The chef is said to have used what scant ingredients were available: tripe, peppercorns and scraps of meat.
The originality of the recipe has been questioned.
Campbell’s pepper pot of today contains no tripe; it’s a beef stock, potato and pasta soup.
Who invented oxtail soup? The Atlanta (Ga.) Constitution on June 13, 1897 answered that query as follows:
“Ox tail soup was invented by French prisoners in the English fleet, who were given for food only the tails and refuse.”
However, the 1902 book “With A Saucepan Over the Sea” provided a variation on that tale. Among recipes from England were those for oxtail and oxcheek soups. Author Adelaide Keen said these recipes “were brought by French refugees who had learned, during exile and enforced poverty, how to make the best of their resources.”
Who invented cioppino? No specific person is associated with this hearty tomato-based fish and seafood soup. It is attributed to Northern Italian immigrants in the San Francisco area.
Jean Anderson wrote in the 1997 “The American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century”:
“The only thing definite about cioppino is that no one knows for sure when it originated. In researching the recipe, I found a wide range of dates—from Gold Rush Days to the 1930s. Most food historians and cookbook authors don’t even try to fix the recipe in time, although all point to San Francisco as the place of origin. It’s true, certainly, that cioppino wasn’t well known beyond the Bay area (or at least outside California) until after World War II.”
Margaret and G. Franco Romagnoli, on the other hand, insist that the place of origin is Italy, with the San Francisco version entailing merely a slight change in ingredients and name. In “The Romagnolis’ Italian Fish Cookbook” (1994), they wrote:
“Here is a fish soup that has many versions; in San Francisco it is called cioppino and it is made by fishermen using local West Coast fish and red wine. In Liguria, where the soup came from, it is called ciuppin and uses white wine and the accent of ginger. Both versions call for tomatoes, but the Italian recipe forbid tomato paste.”
Other Italian cookbooks refer to the dish as cacciucco.
Who invented Senate bean soup? It’s unknown. An article in the New York Times on March 12, 2000, said:
“Bean soup is on the menu in the Senate’s restaurant every day. There are several stories about the origin of that mandate, but none has been corroborated.
“According to one story, the Senate’s bean soup tradition began early in the 20th-century at the request of Senator Fred Dubois of Idaho. Another story attributes the request to Senator Knute Nelson of Minnesota, who expressed his fondness for the soup in 1903.”
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company
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