Saved by a Bowl of Turnip Soup

(Image credit: Dana Velden)

Right now, the most perfect thing in my life appears to be a bowl of turnip soup. I know. Turnip soup sounds like a punishment, it sounds like near starvation or prison rations but I’m here to say that nothing can be further from the truth. As I sit at my table with the bowl nestled in my hands, its pungent earthy turnip scent swirls around me and steams up the kitchen windows. I listen to the wet, rough rainstorm just on the other side of the windowpane and I consider my good fortune to be exactly here, exactly right now, with exactly this bowl of turnip soup.

I guess we can say it’s early winter or maybe very late fall. Either way, it’s cold and wet and there’s a fierce wind blowing. It’s soup time. And it’s time for roots, too, for earthy sweetness and bitter greens. The weather is too awful to go out for provisions and like some old time fairy tale, my poor larder is quite bare: onion, garlic, turnips. This is how turnip soup becomes the perfect soup, at least for this night. Cheap, delicious, warming and very simple to make. I’ll tell you how.

Sauté an onion in butter or oil. Don’t let it brown but let it grow soft and sweet. Add a big pinch of salt.

Meanwhile, peel some turnips and slice them into chunks or into thin slices if you feel like chopping. Thin slices will take slightly less time to cook. Set aside.

When the onions are done, add a few cloves of smashed garlic to the pot and stir. When its scent blooms up, add the turnips and enough water or stock to cover. Place a lid loosely on the pot and leave over a low flame to simmer until the turnips are soft and sweet. Puree or smash the turnips until the soup is thick.

A lot can happen at this point: a sprinkle of pepper, black or red. A drizzle of bright green olio nuovo, or maybe toasted hazelnut oil. Some sautéed greens spiked with rooster sauce or crunchy bread crumbs. But its really best to stop before things to get too complicated. The Big Feast is just a few days away and it’s quickly followed by the month of December, so there’s plenty of time for fuss and fanciness soon enough.

I decide on a swirl of thick yogurt and a few springs of thyme, bravely retrieved from the pot on the storm-torn back stoop which was enough excitement for tonight. I’ll just stay here in my kitchen with this bowl of soup and some heavy wool socks and a novel from long ago, printed on actual smooth creamy paper. Food, warmth, shelter are so precious and yet such ordinary, taken for granted kind of stuff. As I sip my soup and reach for my book, I pause for a quiet minute, a pre-Thanksgiving prayer of gratitude. I cannot believe it sometimes, how lucky I am.