Stashed away in a cellar, he used them for his hunting and fishing excursions. He also ate them when, for some inexplicable reason, he was sick of a good home-cooked meal. My sisters and I always pilfered his boxes and didn't even care that we had to sneak down the steep steps into our scary dark cellar. We just loved the super hard cookies, jam and cheese out of toothpaste tubes and the dark chocolate.
Living by himself now, Dad does however have a few meals up his sleeve. For one, he can make a decent cup of coffee. He can also fry a mean trout by using tons of butter and then debone it expertly. And he can make a really good tomato soup. When he had an abundance of homegrown tomatoes one year, out of desperation he opened the only cookbook that was laying around. It was a book-of-the-month-club one from the sixties and had exactly one tomato soup recipe. As for the rest of his diet, he probably still has some of those rations.
Of course I snatched the tomato soup recipe, it's perfect with a grilled cheese sandwich; one of my favorite classic American combinations. The soup can be made with either fresh tomatoes or tomato paste. Funny as it might be, I actually prefer making it with the paste. Cooking the paste slowly in butter brings out a robust, deeply intense tomato flavor. Slowly sautéed onions offer a little sweetness, while lemon peel adds a bright note and some zest. Dotted with rice, the soup becomes a little more hefty. I sprinkle it with finely chopped chives or parsley for a nice contrast to the bright orangey-red, and eat it with a crunchy, creamy grilled cheese sandwich.
Beats the armed forces rations.
Adapted from “Das neue grosse Kochbuch”, Berteslmann Publishing ca. 1963
alternately, use 3/4 pounds of fresh, ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
4 cups water
1/3 cup long grain white rice
piece of lemon peel
salt, pepper, sugar
parsley or chives
Let butter melt over medium heat and sautée onions for about 8 minutes, or until golden, don't let them get dark. Add tomato paste or fresh tomatoes and cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Pour water into pan and add lemon peel, bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes. Let cool, purée in blender and return to pan. Bring back to a simmer, add rice and cook for 20 minutes on low heat, stirring every once in a while so rice doesn't stick to bottom of pan. Season with salt, pepper and just a little sugar. Sprinkle with herbs and serve with a grilled cheese!