Yesterday was one of those days when separate parts of our lives that have nothing to do with each other were linked in synchronicity. I had the early shift at work and knew that I was hungry for Potato Leek Soup. The day warranted it. It was rainy, cold and damp. Here in the states, it was a day reminiscent of Ireland and the British Isles. I wanted that comfort feeling of a hot bowl of soup for the weekend.
When I arrived home, I started in on first crabcakes for dinner. My wife just happened to start watching Hook on her iPad in the kitchen. She likes to have the background noise going while she is doing kitchen tasks. In all honesty, while it is a great movie, I have never actually watched it from beginning to end, straight through. While dicing potatoes and onions, slicing leeks, and getting my mise en place together I began to come to a realisation. There was a parallel between me feeling like Peter Pan and the symbolism of this soup. I would never have put the two together either.
Potato Leek Soup has such a comfort for me. It was one of the first things that I created when I started at the restaurant, almost ten years ago. The owner was not particularly fond of the version that they had at that time. It was a chicken based, unsightly coloured potage. It had half cut red potatoes in it that did not exactly conform to the small spoon a diner would have been given. He tasked me with coming up with a better alternative. So I did. What resulted after tinkering was a more familiar dairy-based soup using vegetable broth. The dairy white tones beset the green sliced leeks and the unpeeled diced potatoes quite well. It was more refined, yet it still had enough rustic charm of something cooked in an Irish farmhouse. It became a new favourite to the patrons as well.
The ‘apostrophe’, as quoted by Smee in the movie, became clear to me as I was preparing the soup. Peter Pan the boy had grown up. The responsibilities of being an adult had an effect on him. He lost his imagination. He lost the ability to be carefree. The same happened to this chef. After being at the restaurant for a long enough period of time, it became less “fun”. It was not enjoyable. It became more about dollars and cents versus passion and creativity. Things have not changed much since. Life has been more serious. That brief period of time when it all began was magical. I was in my own Neverland there. Somewhere along the way, it stopped being about the passion. I allowed myself to “grow up”.
So, here I was yesterday staring at this pot of simmering Potato Leek Soup like Harry Potter and the Penseive. (The penseive is a stone bowl with runes on it, filled with a silvery white gaseous liquid or viscous gas. The user extracts a memory from himself or someone else with a wand, then drops it in the pensieve for later retrieval. Dumbledore explains that it helps keep his mind from becoming too crowded with old memories and to experience a particular memory again when needed.) The memories of better culinary days gone by swirling around and rising in steam up to my senses. The words of Hook were calling to me in the background. I then realised why I am doing this One Hundred Day challenge. I have forgotten how to live. I have forgotten how to enjoy life. I have forgotten how to have adventures, be creative, and have the passion for what I am doing. Many times food will do that for us. By bringing back memories, it reminds of what we lost along the way.
So it is well played that as Potato Leek Soup was the ‘first’ creation I had at the restaurant, ten years later it is the “first’ creation of my new Hundred Day Adventure.
“Granny Wendy: So… your adventures are over.
Peter Banning: Oh, no. To live… to live would be an awfully big adventure.”
- 453 grams Leeks, sliced and washed
- 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
- 453 grams Potatoes - Idaho, washed and diced small
- 227 grams Yellow Onion, peeled, and diced finely
- 1892 ml Vegetable Broth
- 237 ml Heavy Cream
- 237 ml Buttermilk
- Salt, White Pepper & Fresh Nutmeg (grated) to taste
- Place large stock pot over medium heat. Sweat leeks and onions in butter. Stir so as not to brown.
- Add diced potatoes.
- Continue to cook for 3-5 minutes - stirring constantly.
- Add vegetable broth. Increase to high heat.
- Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer.
- Add buttermilk and heavy cream. Allow to simmer until potatoes are tender 15-20 minutes.
- Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.