Soup That Saw Duty at the Somme, and Other Leftovers from My Childhood. (Food)

By Roberts, Michele | New Statesman (1996), June 2, 2003 | Go to article overview

Soup That Saw Duty at the Somme, and Other Leftovers from My Childhood. (Food)


Roberts, Michele, New Statesman (1996)


One of the most delicious dishes I have ever eaten was made by my Italian friend Giuliana. She scooped up little golf balls of cooked risotto, sticky with chicken stock, shaped these in her palm, dusted them with flour, pushed a cube of Fontina cheese into each one, and then dropped them into hot oil and deep-fried them. The resulting delicacies, crisp on the outside, melting on the inside, were called suppli. There were never quite enough supplito satisfy our greed, because they were made of leftovers, and Giuliana's risotti were so good that they got gobbled up. Subsequently, I learned always to make too much risotto for supper, so that we could have suppli next day in abundance.

In our throwaway culture in Britain, the joy of leftovers is not much prized. Into the bin with the bits, supposing you've bothered to cook at all in the first place. People used to believe in thrift as a saving grace. In my French grandmother's house, where butter papers were smoothed and laid in the kitchen drawer, pieces of string coiled into ready loops, corks kept for firelighters, we learned how to cherish and how to reuse and were scolded for too much recourse to the dustbin. Lessons from wartime and the Occupation.

Grand-pere's philosophy was that something that had been made by human hand should never be thrown away. The grenier at the back of the garden was stacked full of old Camembert boxes, chipped saucers, handy pieces of cardboard. The soup we had every night was kept in the fridge in the lidded brown enamel can that Grand-pere had carried in his pack in the First World War. The leftover soup was poured back into it after supper. The leftover vegetables of the day went into it, too. Grand-pere called it la mere soupe, because it gave endlessly and never ran out, and he swore that at the bottom of the pot was a residue dating back to 1918. Often the resulting soup was a beige sludge of carrot and potato puree, but none the less second helpings were always pressed upon us.

More successful leftovers were dished up courtesy of Grand-mere's cookery book, written by one M Pellaprat, which had a chapter entitled "L 'Art d'Accomoder les Restes". …

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