Monday, July 23, 2007

Peanut Butter Soup

One of the books that the Elves', Gnomes', Leprechauns', & Little Men's Chowder and Marching Society members really loved was John Steinbeck's "Cannery Row", set in Monterey, California in the early 40s. Characters in the book were based on people who Steinbeck had known when he was spending time there. The main character, Doc, based on his friend Ed Rickets, was a personal favorite of ours. And Doc, a marine biologist, liked beer. One of the other characters commented to him once that he liked beer so much that no doubt he would drink a beer milkshake.

No matter how Doc tried to get this bizarre idea out of his head, it wouldn't leave. Finally, one day when he was out of town (he somehow couldn't do this where he was known), he drove into a drive-in and ordered a beer milkshake.

Years after I read this I was living in Cupertino and I used to go to this little restaurant for lunch a lot. I generally ordered their soup and salad special, except for on Thursdays. On Thursdays the soup was peanut butter, and that was just too odd for me.

Except that, every time I would see that sign, "Soup - Peanut Butter" I would wonder why on earth anyone would try such a thing and shudder at the thought. And wonder what it would taste like.

I couldn't get it out of my mind. Like a beer milkshake, it haunted me. I would wake up on Thursday and wonder what I would have for lunch that day, since I wasn't having the soup special. Until, finally, one day I ordered it. Oh. My. Soooooo good. Peanuts. Chili. Smooth and yummy.*

When I told friends about it, I would say, "it was my beer milk shake" and they would not understand at all. They would look at me like I was crazy and begin to wonder if I weren't a secret drinker.

About eight years later, Michael, an old EGL&LMCMS friend from high school, came to visit and I fixed peanut butter soup and he raved about it and so I told him about trying it and as I was telling him about it preying on my mind, he said, "Right. A beer milk shake."

Ah, to be understood.

* The next Thursday I was so excited, all set for another bowl. But when lunch came, the sign read, "Soup - Split Pea". "What," I asked, "happened?" And it turned out that I was one of the few people who tried the soup, so they discontinued it. I had to find a recipe and learn to make it myself. And a very good job I do of it, too. The recipe calls for smooth peanut butter, but I find that extra chunk is much better. And I can add extra chili powder. Heaven. It tastes like Heaven.


J at said...

I think I'm gonna take your word on this one, mom...

Did R & I try it when you made it in San Jose?

Maya's Granny said...

I'm surprised by this question. I've been making it regularly since we lived in San Jose; surely you had it often! It tasted somewhat like sate and Szechwan noodles.

J at said...

I don't remember it, which makes me wonder if it was one of those things that you made and I ate Mac and Cheese that night. ;)

Ms. Mamma said...

YUM! And thanks for reminding me of one of my favorite books. I actually even liked the movie. It conjures up such a distinct mood.

Kay Dennison said...

So are you going to share the recipe? Please, please, please! I'd just love to try it!