Bibliobites in January: Soup’s On!

love soupTo paraphrase cookbook author Ken Haedrich, in winter only serious soup will do!  We gathered post-blizzard to discuss Anna Thomas’ Love Soup, a collection of vegetarian soup recipes.  Reviews were generally mixed: definite high points, but some lows as well.  Many recipes were tried; among those that were liked best are Pickle Soup (yes, it does have pickles in it!), Vegetarian Onion Soup Gratin, and Spicy Butternut Ginger Soup.  People also enjoyed Old-Fashioned Cream of Mushroom Soup (“better the next day”), Caramelized Cabbage Soup (“better the first day– cabbage didn’t age well!”), and Kale and Sweet Potato Soup with Cumin and Lentil.  High praise was given to the stock recipes, if you have the time to attempt them.  Most of the soup recipes were hearty, complete meals-in-a-bowl loaded with healthy veggies, grains, and beans– appreciated by our post-holiday waistlines!

On the negative side, many of the recipes seemed to be pretty labor-intensive, involving numerous steps, lots of chopping, and multiple pots.  To be fair, many recipes made a large amount; but still, substantial time had to be set aside to make the soup.  The book also had no pictures, which made it harder to visualize the finished product– we wanted some drool factor!  A few ingredients would be hard to find in New England (the author lives in California), such as epazote leaves.  Many recipes used the same ingredients; for instance several soups contained greens, or sweet potatoes, or cabbage.  Three of the bread/scone recipes were flavored with fennel and orange– delicious, but it would have been nice to have some variety.

Though we had our complaints, overall this title is worth a look, and most of us came away with at least one new favorite, or a new variation on a soup we’d been making for years.  Especially in winter, there can never be enough soup!

Since sweet potatoes and/or yams appeared in many of the recipes, the question arose as to what’s the difference between the two:

What is the difference between a yam and a sweet potato?
Answer: taken from The

Sweet potatoes are not a type of yam, and yams are not a type of sweet potato. They are both tuberous root vegetables that come from a flowering plant, but they are not related and actually don’t even have a lot in common. You probably have never eaten a yam.
Here’s an interesting little history lesson to explain why there’s so much confusion. There are two types of sweet potatoes — “firm” and “soft.” The firm variety was the first to be produced in the U.S., so when “soft” sweet potatoes began to be produced commercially, there was a need to differentiate it from its firm counterpart. Since the “soft” sweet potatoes slightly resembled true yams, they picked up the name and became what you see labeled as “yams” in most U.S. grocery stores.
Common U.S. Grocery Store Labeling
• Yam — Soft sweet potato with a copper skin and deep orange flesh.
• Sweet potato — Firm sweet potato with golden skin and lighter flesh.
Ironically, when you want a classic baked sweet potato, with a crisp skin and fluffy orange flesh, or sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole, what you should buy will be probably labeled yam. Even though it’s not a yam. It’s a sweet potato. The soft kind.