One of the best down-and-dirty cooking lessons I’ve seen is pastry chef Natasha Pickowicz’s vast Instagram Story about “soup mother”, her practice of improvising daily soups from the same brothy base, which she keeps on the stove, and whose last 10% she uses to make the next base, and the next, and so on. And some wonderful thinking about deep joys of daily impromptu cooking is woven through her instagram posts and in this interview with New York Magazine.
So here are excepts both practical and philosophical: the very liberating wisdom of an inspired, busy, passionate cook for whom home cooking is “more about feel and taste but also what I have on hand and want to use up”.
Something that I try to convey in my recipes but is admittedly very hard to articulate is the intersection of intuition and thrift and laziness in home cooking, which is somehow the same instinct that leaves me to rarely refrigerate leftovers (was too nervous to admit this in my stories but I have to be me) because I just heat them back up the next day and add new things. I feel like if it tastes good to me then it is okay to eat and no DOH [Department of Health] is coming to my apartment and my stomach has always been strong.
Just trying to share the feeling of deep deep pure LOVE that comes from nursing a soup over a period of time, something I think anybody could try and feel profound satisfaction throughout and afterward.
Anyway I’m always pursuing the idea that one meal can flow into the next and the next, building flavor but also feelings and memories, instead of fixing hermetically sealed little meals that just make 1-2 portions, but instead big batches that evolve over time, richer and deeper meals that carry a literal trace of the meal you had before it.
Medieval inn cookery notwithstanding truly many modern restaurants already do this; a cup of ragu mother, frozen, waiting to jumpstart the next batch of ragu; maintaining a master stock; and of course anything lacto fermented is made this way too. I remember eating many lunches at Moosewood in Ithaca and seeing how Monday’s salsa became Tuesday’s marinara became Wednesday’s ribolitta, which is also how any decent line cook will interpret leftovers into a memorable family meal.
I think people are reluctant to blur those boundaries and mix everything together, but to me, it just feels more intuitive to have the cooking feel more like a wave with different parts. It also feels like more efficient and easier to me too. I don’t want to chop.
For me, I feel like we lose the point of cooking. We’re so stuck in the recipes and what to do and the quantities of everything that you forget that cooking can be this super intuitive, relaxing process that doesn’t have edges around it, but is this ambiguous thing that flows into the next thing.
I ALSO want to make space for our instincts, our resources, our desires, our environment, our discoveries, that blurry, uncertain, ambiguous, witchy realm that cooking without recipes but with feeling takes us to.
Maybe you think this method is gross which is totally fine!! But for me it is just pure grace.
…if you’re worried about food safety, try freezing 1 cup of the next delicious thing you make and then stir it into your next delicious thing ????2w
There’s WAY more to discover in Pickowicz’s Instagram Story, here. It goes pretty fast so toggle the PAUSE button to take it all in. Read New York Magazine’s “Everything You Need to Know About ‘Soup Mother’, here.