Mrs Norris felt herself defrauded of an office on which she had always depended, whether his arrival or his death were to be the thing unfolded; and was now trying to be in a bustle without having anything to bustle about, and labouring to be important where nothing was wanted but tranquillity and silence. Would Sir Thomas have consented to eat, she might have gone to the housekeeper with troublesome directions, and insulted the footmen with injunctions of despatch; but Sir Thomas resolutely declined all dinner: he would take nothing, nothing till tea came — he would rather wait for tea. Still Mrs Norris was at intervals urging something different; and in the most interesting moment of his passage to England, when the alarm of a French privateer was at the height, she burst through his recital with the proposal of soup.
“Sure, my dear Sir Thomas, a basin of soup would be a much better thing for you than tea. Do have a basin of soup.” Sir Thomas could not be provoked. “Still the same anxiety for everybody’s comfort, my dear Mrs Norris,” was his answer. “But indeed I would rather have nothing but tea.”
The French word “pottage” originally meant a “Standing” (heavy or thick) soup, different from “soupe” a mixture of “sops” (bread, gravy, etc.) boiled over a fire. In the following recipe, the duck could easily be replaced by chicken creating something very near today’s chicken soup, perfect for a chilly fall day.
To Make French Pottage
Take 3 ducks & halfe roste ym, then put ym in a pipkin with strong broth, streyned, put in 3 or 4 carrets & as much cabbage as a penny loaf, & a little whole mace. when yr cabbage is tende[r], take up yr rootes & cut ym dice wayes, & put ym in againe, yn p[ut] to ym some strong gravie, a little white wine, & an anchovy or 2, shread small, If you please, you may stew yr ducks in another pipkin in part of yr broth till they are enough, then lay them on yr dish & poure ye cabbage & broth upon ym, & garnish yr dish with fryde parsley & salt.
From Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery
Roasting the fowl before putting it in the soup will give it a lovely flavor. Duck is darker and fattier than chicken, so if you use duck, make sure you skim the top of the soup before serving it. Modern cooks might omit the anchovy as well, if they so desired since it is purely a matter of taste. Clearly the most important part of this soup is a good strong broth to begin it all. Instructions for a wonderful broth as well as several other variations of chicken soup can be found here, at The Pioneer Woman Cooks.
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