What’s in Your Soup?
To bay leaf or not to bay leaf? It’s a great day for making soup, and right now my kitchen steeps in the rich aromas of a hearty minestrone soup. I love this stew for its satisfying, soul-warming Italian flavors and the nutritious variety of vegetables. Plus, like most soups and stews, minestrone tastes better on day 2 or 3 after the flavors have infused together even more. Mamma mia!
As the tomato-ey chicken broth base warms up, I chop my veggies and collect a yummy assortment of herbs from my spice rack medicine cabinet. Basil, oregano, thyme, fennel seeds, and the obligatory bay leaves no soup is complete without.
Side note: most bay leaves come from Turkey or California. While their flavor may be hard to detect, bay leaves are useful also for many health benefits.
Adding bay leaves to the pot makes me think of a family tradition we had when I was growing up. Whoever got the bay leaf in his or her soup bowl was in charge of cleaning up the dishes after dinner. Since it was my mother, my sister, or me who was typically in charge of serving dinner, we always conspired together to ensure my father’s bowl had the leaf. It never failed that he was the one scrubbing the pot on soup night. Sometimes when we felt extra devilish, he got 2 bay leaves in his bowl, the 2nd leaf being insurance that he was cleaning without our help. Luckily, my father had good enough spirits to go along with our ploy. For that, he should be crowned with the leaves of the laurel tree as was done in Ancient Greek and Roman days.
Fun Fact: Bay leaves contain a compound used to treat migraines. In the Middle Ages, bay leaves were used also to treat stomach aches and to lessen the pain of bruises.