I’ve had Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking on my kitchen shelf for nearly a year now. I’ve used one single recipe out of the lot. This book revolutionized American cuisine at home, along with the PBS cooking show starring its author. You would think, being enthralled with food, I would be half way through cooking every single recipe. My obstacle is time, and to a slightly lesser degree, energy. The willful will prevail.
Cooking from scratch is, or at least was, going by the wayside at an alarming rate. It’s far too easy to grab food to-go on the way to your destination, while we are busy watching the clock instead of our waistlines and our health. How many people do you know who bake their own bread, make their own fresh pasta, prepare batches of stock, and bake their own cookies? Grandma. Hmmm… anyone else?
In contrast to Julia’s methods, I read through my vintage cook book written in the early 1980’s by a group of church ladies. I could positively tell you that over half the recipes in their collection contained at least one canned or otherwise pre-packaged ingredient, as well as half a cup of oleo (of which puzzled me, I found out that oleo is short for oleomargarine. Also, based on when this cook book was written and guessing the participants were probably at least 50 years old, they probably wanted to say that vegetable margarine should be used, not one containing animal fat. Margarine as we know it today was created in 1950 (when the recipe ladies would have been of “marrying age” and learning the fine art of becoming domestic goddesses) due to newer technology that enabled the extraction of oils from vegetable matter in a cheap enough fashion for commercial production. It’s just a guess though!). Not all pre-processed foods are created equal. Compare a box of cheesy macaroni to a freshly frozen pasta dinner, both are pre-packaged pastas that require minimal cooking on your part, but one is not fluorescent orange (and nasty). Does it hurt to use a can of cream of mushroom soup now and then? I don’t think so. I’m a mom, I take advantage of short cuts.
Back to the recipe at hand today, onion soup. Not from a can or box, real onion soup.
Julia Child calls for booze in this soup, which I don’t keep on hand, nor do I see a need for it. These onions had so much flavour that I didn’t want to mask them with much other than my homemade chicken stock perfumed with fennel.
I found these vintage soup bowls at Goodwill for a few dollars, nifty eh? Do make yourself some croutons and melt Gruyère cheese on them, this is a must for your French Onion Soup experience. This reminds me of home-ec class because this was one of the few recipes we were tasked to replicate. My home-ec teacher had to taste everyone’s creation at the end of class in order to receive a passing grade for that day, I’m not sure I would want that job. I wasn’t the greatest cook at the wide-eyed and bushy-tailed age of thirteen.