Retro Recipes: Tomato Soupshake and Cucumber Soup, 1963
Welcome to Retro Recipes! Brought to you from the capable kitchen of Eat Me Daily's Stephanie Butler, each week revisits a preparation from the past that straddles the line between ingenious and absurd. This week, a double whammy: Tomato Soupshake and Cucumber Soup.
Summer is a time for simple pleasures. A glass of iced tea on a screened porch, for example, or a ballgame on the radio and a cold beer in your hand. Then there's always the old classic Tomato Soupshake. With a whole raw egg in it, for "extra protein." Because what's summer without a little extra protein?
I found this gazpacho/bodybuilding-shake hybrid in the 1963 edition of Better Homes and Gardens' Snacks and Refreshments (buy at Amazon), part of their Creative Cooking Library. The Soupshake is billed as a "chilly, yet filling" summer lunch, and hostesses are urged to keep a container "on tap in the fridge" — just in case, one assumes, a Campbell's sponsored weightlifting team stops by for tea.
Snacks and Refreshments is only one of the four Creative Cooking Library books that I have in my library. I've got no idea how many there are, but I'm looking forward to featuring So-Good Meals and the entire section of "Meals Men Love" in a future column. The tomato soup shake is one in a string of allegedly crowd-pleasing favorites in Snacks and Refreshments, including delights like Midget Burgers and Frosted Party Loaf (the latter involving layers of ham and egg salad, sandwiched lengthwise in a Pullman loaf and then frosted with whipped cream cheese).
Since this shake is purely novelty (let's face it, I want to drink raw egg and condensed soup as much as you do), I decided to pair that recipe this week with something that could possibly still be served to guests and not have them go running out the door. Chilled cucumber soup is as classy and delicious as it was fifty years ago. Plus I've always believed that buttermilk is the unsung hero of the dairy family, so I jumped at the opportunity to show off exactly what it's capable of.
The scuttlebutt on buttermilk
A word on buttermilk, briefly, before we go into the details of the soup and shake. Like crème fraîche and sour cream, buttermilk originated in Western Europe, where temperatures are colder and milk takes longer to spoil than in hotter, more yogurt-friendly countries in the Middle East. In its purest form, buttermilk is the liquid left behind when butter solids separate from cream. Today most commercial buttermilk is artificially made by adding bacteria to milk to thicken it and give it that fermented flavor. If you're in search of a summer project, pick up some heavy cream and beat it past where you'd normally stop for whipped cream until you've got homemade butter, and real buttermilk. And if you want to impress, soak some chicken in the buttermilk and fry it, and serve the butter with baking powder biscuits on the side. Labor intensive, sure, but your guests will love you for it.
Unlike fried chicken, this chilled cucumber soup is a snap to make, which is a big part of its charm. Just grate three cucumbers, chop as many green onions and as much parsley as you'd like, pour in a quart of buttermilk and season to taste. I topped off mine with some good olive oil and hot sauce, but you could make another version with fresh dill and garnish with thin slices of radish. I'd love it with chopped cilantro and cumin, with a drizzle of chili oil on top; or with an Asian twist with lemongrass and fish sauce. Point is, this soup is ridiculously good and ridiculously versatile. Make it today, while cucumbers are cheap and chilled soups still make sense.
Down the hatch
I'm not sure, though, that the Tomato Soupshake ever really made sense. I'm all for using condensed soup in new and interesting ways (and I have my trusted tomato soup cake recipe to prove it), but something about adding heavy cream, plus an egg, made my stomach turn. I choked down a few sips in the name of science and then the whole thing went down the sink. Then I promptly ate an entire bowl of cucumber soup standing over my kitchen table, just to get the taste out of my mouth. Simple pleasures, indeed.
Recipe: Tomato Soupshake
from Better Homes and Gardens' Snacks and Refreshments, 1963
1 can condensed tomato soup
1 cup half and half or cream
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients in blender or shaker. Blend or shake till mixture is smooth. Chill. Serve in chilled cups or glasses. Sprinkle with nutmeg.
Recipe: Cucumber Soup
1 to 1 ½ cups grated pared cucumber
1 quart buttermilk
1 tablespoon chopped green onion
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
Combine ingredients, mix well. Cover and chill thoroughly, about four hours. Mix again, just before serving in chilled cups. Garnish with parsley and cucumber slices.