Saturday, May 5, 2012
Week 12: Mystery Bean Soup
I was hot on the trail of my grandmother's Mystery Soup.
It was a food recollection that surfaced a few years ago. My mother remembered a special thick bean soup my grandmother used to bring to her, in the early years of her marriage. No one had a car, so Grandma had to take the bus to deliver it. The name sounded like "black-y" with an exaggerated Slovenian accent.
I could picture it so clearly. My grandma on the bus, in a housedress. Week after week, carrying a big jar of her precious homemade soup to the young married couple. I figured it must be a thick dark porridge, something like black bean soup.
I kept looking through my Slovenian cookbooks, but I couldn't find a soup that matched the name or the description.
"You're sure that's what it was called?" I asked my mother.
Yes. She kept repeating the name, with growing insistence. Now it sounded more like "blahk-eh."
"It was made with black beans, right?"
No. I had guessed wrong. They used Roman beans. Big, speckled and pink.
I was wrong about one more detail. It wasn't my sweet, long-suffering Grandma who delivered the soup. It was my surly grandfather. And he did it just once.
So much for the family legend. But I still wanted to find that soup.
I started plugging alternative spellings for "black-eh" into search engines, along with "soup".
Finally, I got a possible hit. Bleki. But it referred to a square-shaped noodle or pasta. Sometimes served on its own, but also used in soup.
Like bean and pasta soup? I had come across a number of recipes for that dish during my online search, using unspecified pasta or noodles.
In Slovenian, the soup is called pašta fižol.
It was hard to believe that the mysterious "black-eh" was a variant of the familiar Italian standard known as "pasta fazool" in America. But I checked with the source. My mother.
"So Mom, that soup. It was made with Roman beans. And roux?"
"Of course. Everything had a roux!"
"And did it also have square-shaped pasta ? I've been reading about these Slovenian noodles called bleki. "
"Yes. That's right. Only we pronounced it 'bleck-eh.' "
Pašta fižol with bleki.
On to figuring out Slovenian Dinner, Week 12.