Saturday, December 10, 2011

Grandma's tomato soup - Supa de rosii

When I was very little, I was an incredibly difficult eater. It's hard to believe now that I have a voracious and pretty catholic appetite for food, but my family spent most of my childhood trying desperately to convince me to eat. For, as you may know, in Eastern Europe a child who doesn't eat is nothing short of a tragedy. It never seems to occur to anyone that the kid will eat when she's hungry, and so will most likely not starve. No -- she must be cajoled, threatened, forced, and constantly reminded to eat!

The upshot of this for me was that my grandmothers especially would latch on to any food item I seemed to eat with relish, and would compete with each other to provide it whenever I was at their house. I remember a visit to Bucharest when I was twelve or so. At that point, I had discovered I liked meat (an overnight sensation), and I wasn't all that finicky anymore. But there were certainly things I liked more than others... and one of these dishes was tomato soup with noodles.

The visit took place over the summer months, and I alternated between the homes of my grandparents, the way I had as a child. Every time I went to my grandmother Nadia's, she would make me tomato soup with noodles, and I would eat bowls and bowls of it, expressing a particular desire for extra noodles. So the next visit, the soup would have a greater proportion of fine, angel-hair noodles, and I'd finish it off with even more delight. I remember by the end of the summer sitting at her kitchen table, and Nadia putting a bowl in front of me: there was a mound of noodles, barely moistened by soup. This was now pasta with tomato sauce. I looked at the bowl, looked at her, and we both started laughing.

Well, despite making some delicious squash and carrot and African peanut soups in the past few weeks, what I've really been craving is tomato soup... with noodles. I called up Nadia for the recipe, and it turned out she had had the same craving. It also turned out that this soup is ridiculously easy to make -- and I simplified it even further.

You basically boil a carrot, a stick of celery, and some onion in a litre and a half or so of water, for half an hour. Then add half a litre of tomato juice, season appropriately, let it cook a little. Finally, throw in some noodles -- I used thin Italian egg noodles that come in little bird nests, crushed a bit. I made the recipe even easier by using a good vegetable bouillon instead of the real veggies (which can be crushed into the soup of course, or just removed). There are better tomato soups out there, I'm sure -- but this one is ridiculously easy, done in less than twenty minutes, and satisfies me like nothing else.