It’s Soup Time.

Soup comes to mind easily these days, with this lingering winter-time chill in the air. There’s always something kind of magical about a giant pot of soup, simmering away, fragrant and comforting….

When it comes to American soup, the list of cultural mainstays includes New England Clam Chowder, spicy variants of Southern chili, lobster bisques, and–we can’t deny it–Campbell’s Chicken Noodle from the can. But if you’d like to try something gastronomically, culturally, and even politically enticing, then U.S. Senate Bean Soup is for you.

This soup has been served in the U.S. Senate cafeteria every day (no matter the temperature outside) since 1901. That’s 111 years. That’s a lot of soup.

The recipe is available to the global public at: http://www.senate.gov/reference/reference_item/bean_soup.htm … it is a very easy, straightforward recipe: however, there has been a long-standing argument regarding the inclusion of mashed potato. The recipe on the Senate’s website yields a gigantic volume of soup (for feeding scores of hungry senators), so here is a pared-down home recipe courtesy of the Joy of Cooking. Its solution to the potato conundrum is to blend a portion of the assembled soup, then reincorporate:

U.S. SENATE BEAN SOUP

Soak 1 1⁄4 cups small dried white beans, such as navy or Great Northern, rinsed and picked over.

Drain and place in a soup pot, along with:

  1 small ham hock
  7 cups cold water

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 1⁄4 hours. Remove the ham hock (leave the soup at a gentle simmer). Discard the bone, skin, and fat; dice the meat. Return it to the pot and add:

  1 large onion, diced
  3 medium celery ribs with leaves, chopped
  1 large potato, peeled and finely diced
  2 garlic cloves, minced
  1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
  1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper

Simmer until the potato pieces are quite soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and mash with a potato masher until the soup is a bit creamy.

Stir in:
  2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Whatever YOU decide to do about the potatoes, enjoy this warm, nourishing meal. It’s just the thing to prepare you for taking controversial legislative action. Or, you know, taking the dog for a walk.

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