What is the true litmus test of a cook? A flawless omelet, a perfect baguette? Melissa of The Traveler's Lunchbox has her own opinion. "From my perspective," she says, "nothing cuts to the chase of kitchen competence like a bowl of plain old vegetable soup."
Why does she consider this the end-all-be-all of a cook's skill? "Vegetable soup," she says, "unfortunately is often seen either as a dumping ground for what is too old or tasteless to consume in any other form, or as a form of punishment from the school of 'if it's healthy, it must taste accordingly!' philosophy."
Melissa argues that a pot of vegetable soup doesn't need truffles, dairy, or other gilded additions to surpass such dull sludge. As evidence she exhibits this Spanish soup: Olla Gitana (Gypsy Pot) from Anya von Bremzen's The New Spanish Table. With a host of delicious things (chickpeas, almonds, tomatoes, saffron, pumpkin) it stands out as an especially delicious example of the genre.
Read her whole piece — it's a cheering section for vegetable soup!
• Get Melissa's recipe and read her full piece on vegetable soup: Gypsy Pot, or the Art of Vegetable Soup at The Traveler's Lunchbox
What are your thoughts on vegetable soup? Do you have favorite recipes or techniques for making a vegetable soup stand out?
Related: Basic Techniques: How to Make Homemade Vegetable Stock
(Images: Emma Christensen; Melissa Kronenthal)