I just had an excellent, easy soup lunch and thought I’d share.
The Alessi soup packets are now for sale in groceries everywhere, and if you see them, you may wonder just how good soup from a packet could be. In a word: Delicious!
All you need is 4.5 cups water boiling in a pot, and then add in the contents of the packet. It cooks for 12 minutes and makes a rich, thick soup with pasta, beans, and vegetables—wonderfully spiced, too. The powder in the packets is made up of things like dehydrated beans, pasta, onions, carrots, tomato, garlic, celery, peas, zucchini, parsley, and chicken meat. I never would have guessed that adding just a little water to those bits and pieces would make such a wonderful brew.
I sometimes chop up carrots or celery, or throw in some garbanzo beans or bits of ham to give my soup even more heft. But if you don’t have any of that lying around, the soup is rich enough without, and in making 4 cups there’s always enough for the next day—when it’s even better!
The key touch (for me) is adding a touch of balsamic vinegar to the final product (they suggest adding a dollop of olive oil and grated cheese, too). It really gives it one final burst of flavor. Toast up a piece of dipping bread or throw together a salad, and this is a great meal.
All the varieties I’ve tried (Sicilian Split Pea Soup, Tuscan White Bean Soup, Sicilian Lentil Soup, Neapolitan Bean Soup) have been delicious, but our favorite is the “Pasta Fazool” (the Neapolitan bean soup).
The back of the package quotes an old Italian saying, “Soup does seven things. It relieves your hunger, quenches your thirst, fills your stomach, cleans your teeth, makes you sleep, helps you digest and colors your cheeks.” Wouldn’t that be great if it were true?
About a month ago, I wrote a nostalgic essay about traveling to NYC with my father for my 16th b’day. Today, to my delight, I received an email from my dad about HIS reminiscences sparked by my essay. His memories are from an earlier era—the late 1950s, when young Wall Street lawyers were paid a pittance and had to live on Staten Island. Seems hard to believe these days, but my father outlines what happened to change things….
* * * *
Still “recovering” from the memorable weekend-long celebration of the fact that I have somehow managed to reach (as Abe Lincoln and also the mayor of “River City” put it) “Four score”.
But point of this note is that as I was filing things, had opportunity to leisurely reread your account (recount) of our 1976 jaunt to NYC.
I must confess that I remember very little of the trip — which made your account all the more interesting. I do remember hauling you over to Staten Island, to stare at the rather ramshackle 2-story “courtyard” apartment building in which your mother and I “set up shop” shortly after our arrival in NYC.
A related memory is how we ended up at “Carroll Place”. Exhausted by trying to find an available (and affordable) place even over on “the wrong side of the tracks” (Staten Island), a short-order cook at a counter sandwich place apparently noted our down-in-the-mouth visages and, upon inquiring why we were so depressed, brightly offered, “Hey. There’s an empty and inexpensive apartment in my place”.
Turned out to be a great location, at least “geographically” (ignoring here how resounding were the frequent family arguments bouncing back-and-forth off the U-shaped “courtyard” walls). As you likely recall, the apartment was but 2 or 3 blocks from the ferry, with a similar short walk to Wall St, at the other end. Since both the ferry and the
NY Times cost but a nickle back in the early sixties, the total commute, complete with reading material, cost a dime. And things like the noted blizzard of the sixties of course didn’t bother the ferry — as I found out upon arriving at work that snowbound morning — only to
find that I was the only one (of a hundred or so) who had made it in. (Belatedly appreciating that it was a “snowday”, I simply turned around and took the ferry back home.)
A question might be — why did so many young Wall St lawyers end up over in low-rent Staten Island? With the munificent pay (over-pay) that Wall St lawyers notoriously enjoy, why not Manhattan? We did first try Manhattan — complete with me loitering around the NYT’s loading dock to grab an issue before it hit the streets. All to no avail — apartments available were entirely out of (financial) reach.
Here’s the reason. Back in 1960 when I was hired, the highest beginning lawyer pay in the US was that on Wall St. But, that “highest pay”, while true, was $6,500. So most of the “white shoe” big Wall St firm “beginners” had to retreat to Staten Island (or similar such).
Last I looked, today’s Wall St “beginners” were taking down some $165,000 per annum. How did $6,500 balloon to $165,000? The answer is pre-Guliani New York. As the 60s progressed in NYC, crime and dirt began to notoriously escalate and — all of a sudden — New York was no longer “the place to go” for a young lawyer. This of course shocked the Wall St grandees, who had gotten used to having the pick of the crop. Suddenly, such were choosing Dallas and “even Milwaukee” over Wall St. The answer to this hiring crisis? I like to imagine the grandees assembled around their rosewood conference tables and pondering, “What is it we got that they don’t got?” — with the answer being a rather unanimous roar: “We got MONEY!!”.
And thus began the bribing of young lawyers to come back to Wall St.
The jumps at first were impressive but not stupendous. But to Wall St’s shock, even Milwaukee called the money bluff and matched the new largesse. So what then did Wall St have to offer? “More MONEY!!” — and the back-and-forth escalation war was on.
The recent slump, I see, has made the money bribes “stagnate” at $165,000 — although I see that “Those bastards down in Dallas” are newly offering $185,000. (http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2012/10/18/lawyer-salary-update-class-warfare-edition/ )
Well, enough of “How I ended up on the Staten Island ferry”….
Picked up another book at the gym. Didn’t want to, since I have plenty of books at home but had nothing to read with me.
I had to laugh out loud at the opening passage of the book, THE PROBABLE FUTURE, a 2003 magical realism novel by Alice Hoffman. It goes on at length about what a fickle, unreliable, rather lousy month March is. Blown into the gym by a gust of arctic wind, I had just been thinking the same thing.
Here’s some of Hoffman’s prose about March:
Anyone born and bred in Massachusetts learns early on to recognize the end of winter. Babies in their cribs point to the brightening of the sky before they can crawl. Level-headed men weep at the first call of the warblers. Upstanding women strip off their clothes and dive into inlets and ponds before the ice has fully melted, unconcerned if their fingers and toes turn blue. Spring fever affects young and old alike; it spares no one and makes no distinctions, striking when happiness is least expected, when joy is only a memory, when the skies are still cloudy and snow is still piled onto the cold, hard ground.
Who could blame the citizens of Massachusetts for rejoicing when spring is so close at hand? Winter in New England is merciless and cruel, a season that instills a particular melancholy in its residents and a hopelessness that is all but impossible to shake. In the small towns surrounding Boston, the leaden skies and snowy vistas cause a temporary color blindness, a condition that can be cured only by the appearance of the first green shoots of spring. It isn’t unusual for whole populations of certain towns to find they have tears in their eyes all through the month of March, and there are those who insist they can see clearly for the very first time.
Still, there are some who are slower to discern the signs of spring. They distrust March and declare it to be the most perilous time of the year. These are the stubborn individuals who continue to wear woolen coats on the finest of days, who insist it is impossible to tell the difference between a carpet of snowdrops and a stretch of ice in this slippery season, even with twenty-twenty vision. Such people cannot be convinced that lions will ever be turned into lambs. In their opinion, anyone born in March is sure to possess curious traits that mirror the fickle season, hot one minute, cold the next. Unreliable is March’s middle name, no on could deny that. Its children are said to be just as unpredictable.
Of course, the main character of THE PROBABLE FUTURE, Stella Sparrow, is born in March.