photo credit: Stephen Zweifel
S PART OF our "Kitchen Basics" series, we've spent the last six months polling our readers to discover their most original uses for various cuisine staples. In this issue, our feature is good old-fashioned alphabet soup.
We hope you enjoy our selection of reader responses! And if you think alphabet soup is just a blend of over-salted broth, soggy letter-shaped noodles, and chintzy pieces of vegetable that fail to meet minimum nutritional standards, hold on to your H-O-R-S-E-S!
Sally Mickelson of Canton, Ohio writes:
"One afternoon at work I was enjoying a nice hot bowl of alphabet soup in my cubicle. The office wolf, Jack, started coming on to me the way he does to all the girls. Jack got in real close and said something in my ear that I can't repeat. Well, that did it. Without thinking I threw the bowl of hot alphabet soup right in his face! The letters were so hot, some of them burned into one of his cheeks. And guess what the letters were? R-A-T! I swear!! I think the Lord did it."
And here's a unique treat from the enthusiastic Rachel Benkers of Bar Harbor, Maine:
"I have a special recipe for lasagna that requires alphabet soup! I can't give all of the recipe away, but I can tell you that all the pasta layers are made entirely of letters! It takes approximately 155 cans to get all the letters I need, but it's worth it!! I can't give away the name of my lasagna recipe, but I can tell you it has the word 'dictionary' in it! Oh, and throw away the leftover soup, because it's no good without the letters."
Mrs. Leslie Simony of Russell Springs, Kansas offers this unusual tip:
"My daughter Kelly owns three little pets: a hamster named Bill, and two geckos, Hillary and Monica. Kelly likes to throw little parties for her menagerie, so I came up with the idea of putting their special party meals in thimbles. For the 'main course' I pour a little alphabet soup in each thimble, and place the first letter of each pet's name as a garnish on top. Usually, the geckos eat just the letter and leave the rest. Bill, unfortunately, ate the thimble, too, so Kelly's new hamster friend is Bill the Second. I know how Hillary and Monica feel, by the way. Alphabet soup without the letters is just pathetic."
We also thought it would be fun to let some of our respondents share ideas with each other, thus adding spice, as it were, to our poll results. But considering the heated nature of those exchanges, we may have gotten ourselves in a little too deep in the spice department! What follows is one of the tamer communications, but even it had to be edited for content. Y-I-K-E-S!
Mrs. Evelyn P. of Tallahassee, Florida:
"I always buy extra cans of alphabet soup so that I can strain some of them just for the letters. I dry the letters on a paper towel in my sun porch and then create little edible messages for my husband and children.
For instance, in anticipation of a rare lunch-at-home with my husband on a recent weekday, I left S-W-E-E-T-I-E P-I-E arranged in dried alphabet soup letters on my husband's napkin. As he ate them, he called them my 'love letters.' Who could ask for more!"
Responding is Mrs. Jeannine S. of New Britain, Connecticut:
"I, like Mrs. P. from Tallahassee, dry alphabet soup letters, but I would suggest that she NOT dry them on a paper towel, but use a clean cloth instead. You might think your letters are free of paper, but believe me, the paper seeps into the letter and essentially you're feeding your husband noodles with paper fibers. I know, because my husband is a chemist, and he tested one of my paper-towel letters and reported back his findings. I get so turned on when he reports findings. Anyway. Just a word to the wise."
Responding to Mrs. Jeannine S., Mrs. Evelyn P. had this to say:
"Please thank Mrs. Jeannine S. from New Britain for her suggestion. However, we simple people of Tallahassee are not afraid of paper towels. My husband, Shelby, may not be a big important chemist, but as a hard-working provider who has earned the prized 'Shoe Salesman of the Southeast' quarterly award twice in succession, he knows when he's eating noodles dried by love versus dried by a big snob. Here's some free education for Mrs. East Coast: down South, sun porches have been known to parch alligators so dry and teensy you could eat 'em on a stick. So we don't worry about paper seeping into anything, thank you very kindly."
The final response from Mrs. Jeannine S:
"Well, pardon moi for wanting to help another homemaker be the best she can be! I thought we were all in this together, but I guess I was mistaken. Enclosed is my alphabet-soup-letter note to Mrs. Evelyn P. of Tallahassee. It has been dried on LINEN and expertly glued on 100% SILK, because I never lower my standards, even for Southern hayseeds. In case she can't read too well, I'll spell it out:
*-* Y-O-U-R-S, T-A-L-L-A-H-A-S-S-E-E! And by the way, commas and exclamation points are formed by using something called 'imagination'!!"
At least we can report one note of harmony between Mrs. P. and Mrs. S: they both recommend throwing the soup away once the letters have been strained out. Evidently, alphabet soup without its famous noodles is one big D-U-D!
© 2005 Kate Heidel