Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

It's Easier to Make Vichyssoise Than Say It

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

It's Easier to Make Vichyssoise Than Say It

Article excerpt

The name is the fanciest thing about this summertime soup, and you don't even say it the fanciest way.

Vee-she-swah usually the way to go when it comes to French - is, in this case, incorrect. It's vee-she-swaazz. After I said it recently, a friend of mine pointedly went with the -swah, clearly to kindly demonstrate the error of my ways. I just let her do it. Life's too short for pronunciation-shaming, and summer's way too short. Plus it's only soup.

The French "vichyssoise" also sounds approximately 17 times better than "cold potato-leek soup," and that is apt, for cold potato-leek soup is approximately 17 times better than it sounds. But even its Frenchiness is a little bit fudged - in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," Julia Child rather tersely points out, "This is an American invention."

A Talk of the Town profile from The New Yorker, vintage 1950, details that vichyssoise was the idea of Louis Diat, "the celebrated chef" of the Ritz. While he himself was French (and vividly so, "a mustached man of 65 with curly gray hair and large, black, bushy eyebrows"), he originated the soup on the hotel's New York City premises in 1917.

Having recalled that in his childhood summers, he and his brother would pour cold milk into the potato-leek soup his mother and grandmother made, and how very good the result was, he decided to make the patrons of the Ritz such a French country treat. The ritzy types loved vichyssoise so much that in 1923,

Mr. Diat yielded to their demands to keep it on-menu not just during New York's sweltering season, but throughout the year. Het grew up near Vichy - hence, the name.

The New Yorker notes that vichyssoise, in its heyday, was a soup for the stars. Steel magnate Charles M. Schwab "ordered it the first day it was on the menu, and asked for a second helping." President Franklin Roosevelt's mother, who'd also apparently deeply enjoyed vichyssoise at the Ritz, "once called me up at 5 in the afternoon and asked me to send eight portions to her house," Mr. …

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