One of the fun parts of learning to cook well is that we can create favorite dishes for favorite people. In Cooking Lesson 12, Sue’s Cream of Tomato Soup hits the spot because it’s a soup her father loves. This is part of the series of lessons from When Sue Began to Cook, a 1924 cookbook in the Bettina’s Best Recipes series of cookbooks. If you’re just tuning in, you can click the book title to visit Lesson 1 and start from the beginning.
Even though the lessons take place on Saturdays, Sue’s father is at work at the office. This book was written two years before Henry Ford introduced the five day work week. Through the early part of the Twenties, working on Saturdays was normal after working all week. Some people worked half days on Saturday. Others worked all day and only took Sundays off.
This recipe is unusual because it takes two pots to make. Modern tomato soup recipes only require one pot, but this one requires making a white sauce in one pan while heating the tomato puree/broth to boiling in the other. It’s nice to know yet another way of combining ingredients — especially if you don’t mind washing two saucepans at the end of the experiment.
Let’s visit Sue’s notebook to see how the lesson, and the day, went.
Sue’s notes on Cream of Tomato Soup
Probably we wouldn’t have tried anything so hard as Cream of Tomato Soup if it hadn’t been Father’s birthday today. But it is his favorite soup and when I asked him yesterday what he wanted me to give him for a present, he said, “well, you can make me some Cream of Tomato Soup at your cooking lesson.”
“Then,” said Mother, “you’ll have to come home at noon. You know the cooking lesson comes in the morning, and tomato soup ought to be served just after it is made. Even old experienced cooks have trouble with it sometimes and it will be a little hard for beginners like Sue and Ruth Ann.”
“But we can do it, Mother! Please let us!” I begged. It seemed so nice to me to be able to cook just what my father wanted on his birthday.
“I’d like to bring a man home to luncheon with me,” Father said. “A friend of mine who will be in town just for the weekend.”
Mother said we could try the soup, and Father could bring his guest. I tell you, we were excited! Mother had made the birthday cake yesterday, thank goodness, and she let Robin put on the pink candles. Robin felt so important that he acted as if the cake was the main part of the meal, but of course I knew that the soup was the principal thing since Father had asked for it and it was one of his favorite dishes.
Well, Ruth Ann and I were so afraid that the soup would curdle, but it didn’t. (Mother had said that it would if we weren’t very careful.) And what do you suppose? The man Father brought home with him for luncheon was Uncle Harry, Ruth Ann’s father! Ruth Ann was so surprised and happy to see him (you know he gets to town only about once a month) and he was so surprised and happy to know that his only daughter was really learning to cook that poor Father’s birthday was almost forgotten after all.
The Cream of Tomato Soup recipe
Try this one and learn to stir the puree into the hot cream soup. It’s a worthwhile skill for your cooking toolbox.
Cream of Tomato Soup
- 2 cups canned tomatoes
- 1 Tbsp onion, chopped fine
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup water
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 4 Tbsp flour
- 1 tsp salt may need less
- ¼ tsp paprika
- 3 cups milk
- ¼ tsp soda
- Mother had us each mix our tomatoes, onion, cloves, bay leaf, and water in a small kettle. She had us simmer it for fifteen minutes. That means cook it very slowly, with only a little heat so that it just bubbles now and then but doesn't really boi.. Then we poured it through the strainer, the coarse-meshed one. Mother had us press the cooked tomato through with a spoon. She said we must ust all of it that could be strained. [Strain the mixture into a bowl. You keep the strained liquid and toss the spent vegetables.]
- Then we each took a clean saucepan and put the butter into it. We melted that over the fire very slowly and then added the flour, salt, and paprika. We mixed it very carefully with a big spoon so that there wasn't a single lump in it. And then we added the milk and cooked it all toggether, stirring it all the time till it was creamy and a little bit thick. After it began to bubble (the fire was low so it wouldn't burn) Mother had us cook it one minute more by the clock.
- We each put our strained tomato mixture back in the first kettle we had used and heated it till it boiled. Then Mother had us add the soda. This made it fizz up all of a sudden, but we stirred it around for a minute and then emptied all of the tomato part right into the hot creamy milk mixture. Mother says all good cooks know that tomato souo is likely to curdle if the milk is emptied into the tomatoes. The tomatoes must be emptied into the milk. Then we let the soup get very hot for just a minute, and then we dished it up into hot soup plates and served it with crackers that had been put into the hot overn for a few minutes to make them crisp.