What to Eat in France: Soupe de Légumes, or French Vegetable Soup
French children hate soup because most of the soup they get looks like the one below. You’ll not find any tiny pasta alphabets swimming around in French soup. It looks like mush or worse, children say. And it does. It’s anything but the bright, primary colors that would attract a child.
Adults see it differently. In fall and winter, soup often replaces salad as a starter. It has a high vegetable content, therefore providing all the vegetables one needs for a day, and it always uses seasonal, mainly root, vegetables. Every region has their own version, as does every cook, and any day’s version depends on what is available at the market and in the larder.
Most French soup uses a classic potato and leek purée as a base, the same one used to make vichyssoise, no matter what the region.
In the country, there is a longstanding tradition of pouring a little red wine into the last few spoonfuls of soup, and drinking it straight from the bowl. This is referred to as “faire chabrot” (or “faire chabrol” or “fà chabroù” in other regions). All these variations come from the Latin capreolus. It means literally “to drink like a goat.” The tradition exists mainly south of the Loire. Today, it is mainly older people in the country who still practice it.
This recipe is from the Lyon region, where they add a bit of cabbage to the otherwise classic base.
1 stick of celery
Chunk of cabbage
4 1/2 cups veal or chicken broth, hot
1 T. butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Slices of country bread
Glass of red wine for each diner
- Chop vegetables into small cubes and place in saucepan or soup pot. (I leave on the skin for added fibre.)
- Cover with hot broth.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cook over medium-low heat for about 1 1/2 hours.
- Toast bread.
- Purée in a food processor or with a potato masher.
- Add butter and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Lay slices of toast in soup bowls.
- Pour soup over toast.
- Sprinkle with parsley.
- Serve immediately.
- When there are just a few spoonfuls of soup left in the bowl, add a little red wine and drink the rest of your soup straight from the bowl (if you dare).