TASTE OF LIFE / Potage bonne femme: A post-2011 novel shows that comfort foods enrich our lives, like novels

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Editor’s Note: In the Taste of Life series, culinary experts, chefs, and others involved in the food business showcase their special recipes related to their life journeys.

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Naoya Higuchi is a book lover who also loved to write. He won a prize in a literary competition when he was in high school.

The novel he started writing the night after running a restaurant as a chef became his first job in his twenties.

Higuchi spent time and effort writing “Supu no kuni no ohimesama” (A Princess in the Land of Soup), a novel about a young former cook hired by an elderly lady to cook soup for her in her mansion.

Although the story was serialized in a literary magazine under a different title, the Great East Japan Earthquake, which struck the year the series ended, prompted him to rewrite with a different theme.

Originally, the theme of the novel was “the immutable daily life”. The young man prepares the broth and cooks the soup every day at the mansion. Higuchi felt that such repetition was noble.

However, Higuchi witnessed the collapse of this daily life when the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster hit the Tohoku region in 2011.

When the novel was to become a book, he changed the theme to “memory” and rewrote it so that the characters would confront their families or the memories of the deceased through soup.

“Potage bonne femme”, a soup soup dear to the main character, causes a sensation by appearing at the beginning and at the end of the story.

In French cuisine, “bonne femme” is given to the names of home-cooked dishes that are reminiscent of comfort food. Literally “good woman”, the expression means “mistress of the house” or “mature woman”.

Starting with the hot pot soup novel, Higuchi chose to write kitchen-themed plays. He said he often developed the script, focusing on the background or the recipe of the dishes.

Higuchi said the dishes had some commonalities with the novels.

“You eat something delicious with someone. Your outlook on life can change when you read a novel,” he said. “Novels and good food improve and enrich life.”

While a potato, carrot, and onion were used this week, celery, cauliflower, and a turnip will work well depending on the season.

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Naoya Higuchi: Born in Tokyo in 1981, Higuchi graduated from Hattori Nutrition College. He made his debut as a writer in 2005 with “Sayonara Amerika”. He wrote many novels, including “Otona Doroppu”.

Naoya Higuchi (Photo by Atsuko Shimamura)

BASIC COOKING METHOD

Main ingredients (for two or three people)
1 small potato (80 grams), 1/4 (70 grams) of carrot, 1 medium onion (200 grams), 20 grams of butter, 200 ml of water and milk, 50 ml of fresh cream, 1/ 2 teaspoons of salt, a few croutons

1. Peel the potato and cut it into 5 mm thick pieces. Finely chop the onion against the fibers. Thinly slice the carrot.

2. Add the butter, onion, carrot and half the salt to the pan, place over medium heat with lid. When the steam rises, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. When the vegetables are softened, add the water, milk, potato and turn over medium heat.

3. When the pot comes to a boil, put on low heat and simmer for 7-8 minutes with a lid. Turn off the stove and cook for another 5 minutes on residual heat. When the potato has softened, mix the contents in a blender.

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Put the contents in the blender once the potato has softened. (Photo by Atsuko Shimamura)

4. Return the contents to the saucepan, add the rest of the salt and the fresh cream. Mix and heat. Serve with croutons.

Assuming the dish serves two, about 340 kcal and 1.9 grams of salt per serving
(Nutrient calculation by Kagawa Nutrition University Nutrition Clinic)

Adding half the salt when cooking vegetables in the pot will cause them to soften faster. The soup will be smooth by adding a small amount of fresh cream which contains more fat than milk.

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From the Jinsei Reshipi (Recipe of Life) Column of the Asahi Shimbun


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