Soup and Salad Bar

My friend JC is a loyal customer of canned soup. Before meeting her, I didn’t know you could actually stomach canned soup, and before meeting me, she didn’t know there was a possibility that soup could come from places other than a red and white labeled tin can.

Our friendship grew when she came over one winter’s day with boy complaints, and I offered her a cup of the cream of broccoli I had simmering on the stove. She asked what it was, and I repeated, “cream of broccoli.” She repeated her question, making clear that it was leaning towards the brand, rather than the kind. ¬†It was then when the truth was revealed; that was her first bowl of homemade soup- you could say she lost her “real soup” virginity that day. I, however, still am, and probably will die, a canned soup virgin.

I will, however, when I’m pressed for time, open a can of two things, tomato products (crushed, sauce, etc.) and less frequently, black beans (which is completely against my father’s will. Every time it slips, he rambles about the harms of canned goods, and how simple it is to soak the dried beans then boil them for hours of time). On a streak of cold weather, I’ll make a pot of “everything soup”, starting with diced carrots, celery, and onions, then a can of crushed tomatoes, scallions, herbs, sometimes squash, and beans. If the soup is up to my father’s standards and I am cooking the beans that have been soaking in water since the morning with some salt, I’ll cook them separately first, before adding them to the soup- they’ll dull the color otherwise. I give my soup a little bit of spice and a lot of time, sometimes stirring in some freshly chopped parsley towards the end and a squeeze of lemon.

Now, JC, is my number one fan of any soup I make. She is so devoted, she has it in her head to start a business, ironically but sweetly proposing to can my soups and marketing them, not realizing that is going completely against my food philosophy. There is a reason I’m a 25 year old canned soup virgin.

And, while she may be queen of the microwave, with her Lean Cuisine freezer foods and Campbell soups, she is also a beautiful salad empress. My first experience of her “everything salad” left me impressed and inspired. A bed of green leaves hovered in baby carrots, sliced red bell peppers, cucumbers, and what I believe to be what sets it apart, chopped turkey breast slices and feta cheese crumbles- salad soul mates.

We made a tradition of it, girl’s nights with my soups, her salads, a bottle of wine, and a bit of gossip. Some weeks, there was a movie involved. But, when JC left Hanover for a two month adventure in New Zealand, I had to start making my own salads that were meal-replaceable¬†worthy and able to hold me over.

The thing with salads and an appetite like mine is, my jaw usually tires of chewing before my stomach feels the slightest bit full. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a good salad. And so, I’ll make my version of an “everything salad” of spring or 50/50 mix (sometimes JC would use exclusively baby spinach but I find too much of it in the raw leaves you with a dry, uncomfortable feeling mouth), grated carrots, celery, cucumbers, yellow peppers (my favorite of the bells), olives, a chopped up hard boiled egg (for added protein in hopes of holding me over an extra thirty minutes- plus I like how the velvety yolk adds body to the vinaigrette when mingled with oil and vinegar), dried cranberries, an avocado, and of course, sliced turkey breast and feta (or sometimes, for the Iranian in me, when I can get my hands on some, white sheep’s cheese instead.) And, every time, my last fork-full will be a single leaf, cucumber wedge, a bit of olive, and turkey and feta, because the last bite has to be perfect.