12.347 Special Potato Soup

Cycle 12 – Item 347

18 (Sat) December 2021

Special Potato Soup


by me

at home

-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-

with the Family

Newbery 100 Medals, 100 Meals (70) (see 100 NEWBERY M&Ms)

While reading the 100 books that have been awarded the annual Newbery Medal since 1922, I am attempting to create one dish for every book, a dish that is directly referenced in or indirectly inspired by the events of the book.  The dishes will be featured as posts on Give Me This Day.

MC Higgins, The Great (1975) by Virginia Hamilton.  The book is about Mayo Cornelius (MC) Higgins, who lives with his family in Appalachian Mountains and daydreams about moving to a big city, often while sitting atop a tall pole that overlooks his home, the hillside, and the distant lake.

I didn’t quite get it.  Told from MC’s perspective, the story-telling felt jumbled and disjointed, perhaps to reflect mental health issues.  Indeed, his interactions with other characters – e.g., he encounters a young girl in the forrest, pricks her with a knife, then tries to kiss her – are dysfunctional and disturbing.  Perhaps a more careful rereading would reveal a coherent theme underneath, but I didn’t have the patience for it.

Then again, the book represents a watershed moment in Newbery history: the first Newbery Medal awarded to a writer of color, followed 2 years later by Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1977).  To put that into stark perspective, MC Higgins the Great was preceded by The Slave Dancer (1974) and Julie of the Wolves (1973).  Since then, the award has not been given to a white author writing about brown people, especially white saviors rescuing brown people – except perhaps Number the Stars (1990) (are Jews = brown people?).

The first major snowfall of the season.

Later, MC finds the young girl (the one he had previously assaulted) sleeping in a tent near the lake, and somehow convinces her to have lunch at his home.  When they arrive, his usually grumpy father – they call him Jones – suddenly becomes a charming host and makes lunch.

[paraphrased in part]

Jones molded and shaped the lunch from bits and pieces of aging food.  He had gathered two pounds of soft potatoes, an onion as large and damp as his fist and a Mason jar of lard that had been used once before.  He strutted back and forth, pulling the meal together from different parts of the kitchen.  From far back in the icebox, he produced a crock of souring milk, some beef broth for stock and a half-shriveled section of green pepper.

Jones was a sight to see whenever he made a show of preparing his special potato soup.

This was a good opportunity to make Julia Child’s potato and leek soup, the first recipe that I had tried from Mastering the Art of French Cooking (see 3.137 Potage Parmentier).

Though it had turned out very nicely, I never made it again – mainly because I felt that the critical step of straining the cooked potatoes and leeks (e.g., through a sieve) was a hassle.

Since then, I’ve acquired a food mill – at the time of purchase, I was thinking specifically that it would facilitate the making of this soup.  Alas, the straining was still a hassle.

Anyway, for whatever reason, the soup wasn’t so great this time – hard to believe such a different outcome, given the simplicity of the recipe.



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