In winter, I often feel like soup, and I love the graphics on the cover of Martin Lederman’s 1956 “Slim Gourmet’s Soup Book – Five hundred soups from five cans” but I had never used it, as his recipes are a bit vague (more on that in a moment) and call for canned soup, which I don’t love. Nevertheless, I decided to try a few because they were all quick recipes I could make after work, and we all need more quick go-to things to whip up while we’re still able to stand after a long day. The more I read, the more fascinated I became with “The Slim Gourmet” and his wheels, which remind me so much of art school! I tried three of the 500 soups, and despite my suspicion of cans, and of sensing a metallic taste in one of the soups (corrected with a couple turns of the pepper grinder), they are quite yummy and he is actually on to something here!
This is a gourmet cooking book that just happens to feature cans, because the time it was written was the dawning of the processed food industry, when we celebrated their glory: Economical! Never spoils! Clean, tidy and measured! One certainly cannot mistake this with “white trash” cookery, because he instructs you to add sherry, minced aromatic herbs and fine cuts of meats (even lobster!) to the cans to create versions of many existing soups, or variations on themes. Mr. Lederman calls this “upbreeding” (!!!) and suggests the idea came from mixing gin with juices to create cocktails, thus raising the gin to a higher level as a new creation. (Ahhh, gestalt theory in food!)
This was the best soup - from the Chicken Soup Wheel: Chicken Broth / Mushroom Soup / Asparagus Tips and (my eternal fave) Worcestershire Sauce. Add a bit of fresh ground pepper and good bread and it tastes better than canned soup, that's for sure!
Mr. Lederman, who is “deeply in love with soup”, presents more of a CONCEPT than a recipe (yeah, man, a concept album…) in which you start with one of 5 cans of soup, match it with ½ from another can and then follow the spokes of the wheel out , adding according to the path you selected from one of five “Soup Wheels” and reducing the quantity by ½ each time. Very clever and artistic as a concept, but totally foreign to someone used to cooking with only fresh ingredients. His very introduction praises the canned soup industry and delights in the fact that 20th century cooks need no longer make their own stocks or soup bases anymore, thus saving time by using cans. His point was very au courant, but now we are in a time of severe processed food backlash, we “revolt” by insisting on performing every step in the cooking, and shun processed food. Hello, generation gap!
This soup was pretty good; Chicken Broth / Sherry / Bacon and Parmesan. I added fresh Parsley as a garnish, which is a restaurant trick to "liven" things up if not super fresh or if lacking in any way.
All said, there are very nice organic stocks and broths on the market now, and you can use his concepts to whip up tasty soups very quickly, which was his intended point all along. Add fresh pepper and herbs and quality meats and you have actually many options. I’ve made three of 500, so I have quite a way to go myself in learning “The Art of Blending Soup”. I’ve only worked with two of his “wheels” : chicken broth and consommé. There other “bases” are tomato, mushroom and vegetable. Let’s get cooking!
The final soup I made began with Consomme and then RED WINE. It was so weird, I still can't quite get over it...
Beef Broth / Red Wine / Asparagus Tips / Mushrooms = JUST WEIRD