The French have their “bon appétit” and the italians have the equivalent “buon appetito – but, aha!, theer is a catch. People who take their good manners seriously in Italy – let’s face it, I speak of those who come from a bourgeois background and not your average oik – frown and fret whenever they hear a well-wisher utter “buon appetito” at table. It’s a definite no, no in the almanac of table manners. Which is such a shame, I think, because it’s all about the joy of eating together! So stuff stuffy manners: I say buon appetito and that’s that!
What can be nicer or more welcomed than a nourishing hot soup when the weather is really cold? Repeat: cold. So highly-held in my family’s culinary tradition was the conviction that soup is incomparably good for one, that we had to undergo the torture of piping-hot soup practically every evening for supper even when we lived in what was then East Paksitan, i.e. in a very hot country.
So far as I can remember, except for tomato soup which I have always loved, the broths in question were mostly some kind of clear vegetable soup with ‘bits’ of parsley swimming about in it and didn’t strike me at all as ‘inviting’. We had a cook in those days and their training wouldn’t have included anything even remotely Italian. So these soups were nothing like the average ‘soups’ eaten in Italy — which nearly always have the benefit of some grated parmesan scattered over it. (Parmesan is the most democratic of cheeses and makes everything taste better.) Now that I think of it, I am surprised that my Italian mother didn’t demur at this hot soup ‘habit’. But then again, she always did comment on how incredibly stoic the Brits were and took it for granted, by the way they dressed and behaved, that they would be eccentric. “The Eeenglish! You ask them, “how are you” ? and they always say “fine”! They never complain. They like everything!” she would comment in amazement. So, perhaps, eating hot soup even in hot weather was her way of ‘blending’, of not making a fuss.
These days I am a convinced soup lover — only I wouldn’t want one when the weather is hot, that’s all.
When my daughter was away at uni a few years ago and asked for some soup recipes, this one, salad soup, ended up being the one she made most frequently. Very definitely Italian, with pancetta in it, and finished off with a spray of freshly grated parmesan.
Tomatoes, carrot, onion, celery, salad … any lettuce/salad except for rocket or radicchio which are bitter. A pinch of saffron is also added, to make the soup more interesting. And if you like it hot, you can also add some chilli.
Now, saffron … imparts a wonderful je-ne-sais-quoi to any dish but it was one drawback and that is that it is very expensive. So … if you haven’t got any proper saffron to hand, use turmeric instead. Turmeric is much cheaper and … added boon, is an incredibly potent anti-oxidant, brilliant for one’s health.
P.S. The French have their “bon appétit” and the italians have the equivalent “buon appetito” – but, aha!, there is a catch. People who take their good manners seriously in Italy – those who come from a bourgeois background, i.e. not your average middle-class or oik – frown and fret whenever they hear a well-wisher utter “buon appetito” at table. It’s a definite no, no in the almanac of table manners. Which is such a shame, I think, because it’s all about the joy of eating together! So stuff stuffy manners: I say buon appetito and that’s that!
P.S.S. You can make this soup just using onion (i.e. without the carrot and celery) — it will still tatste very good.