Come Fly With Me: Cream of tomato soup

The check-in line at Bush International snaked up and down security cattle chutes, past the restrooms, and into the terminal corridor. Surrounded by baggage-laden, disgruntled, would-be travelers nudging their bags along with their feet I wondered, when did flying stop being fun? When did the thrill of the cosmopolitan romance and adventure Frank Sinatra sang about devolve into numb acceptance? 

In May 1960, thanks to a graduation present from my wealthy aunt, I took my first flight and traveled from Sioux City to Chicago. I wore high heels, a girdle, a cashmere sweater set, my mom’s pearls, an A-line skirt, and carried a small purse. Everyone dressed their best: men in suits and hats, women in heels and hose—there were no babies or pets.

I checked my luggage (for free, with no weight limit), walked onto the plane (accompanied to the gate by my mom and dad), sat in a two-seat row next to a man in a suit and tie (who chain-smoked and drank as much free alcohol as he could get down), ate cream of tomato soup, chicken fricassee, pea salad, and a Jello cup (served by a young, thin, girl-next-door stewardess), met my aunt and uncle (as soon as I got off the plane), and waited 45 minutes for my bag. (Some things have improved.)  

In May 2016, thanks to breathless, media-driven, TSA hysteria, we arrived at Bush International 3 1/2 hours before our flight, shuffled through security, and waited for 2 1/2 hours at the gate. We surged forward with Group B, mooed through the Nobodies Lane, found room in the overhead bin, and waited for the window seat person to show up. Drawn to us like magnets, a harried mom with a three-year old and an infant struggled into the seats behind us—oh no. The inevitable, large, hairied man in tank top and flip flops squeezed in front of us to fit into the window seat beside me. Our trifecta was complete.

But on the half-full side, we left on time, ate $9.00 day-old turkey sandwiches and free snacks in our seats, and avoided certain punishment by not whacking a three-year old, muffling an infant, or stabbing a hairy arm with a plastic fork. As Louis C.K. said, ” We soared into the clouds impossibly! Thirty thousand feet above ground! We landed softly on giant tires! Houston to Seattle in 5 hours! We didn’t explode! 

We were at home grumbling about our flight in the time it would have taken to drive to Amarillo. That’s why we fly. 

Cream of tomato soup

  • 2 tablespoons butter 

  • 1 medium onion, julienned or sliced 

  • 1 fennel bulb (optional) you can also use 1⁄2- 1 teaspoons fennel seeds 

  • 2 teaspoons salt 

  • 1⁄2 teaspoon white pepper 

  • 1⁄2 cup Pernod (optional) 

  • 2-3 ripe tomatoes, seeded & chopped or 1 can diced-in-juice tomatoes (best quality possible) 

  • 2 cups chicken stock 

  • 1⁄2 cup heavy cream 

  • 1⁄2 cup half & half
  • Dash of Tabasco 

Trim fennel, discarding stem. Thinly slice stalks. 

Melt butter over moderate heat in large stockpot or Dutch oven. Add onions and cook with salt and pepper until soft, about 10 minutes. Add fennel, reduce heat to low, cook additional ten minutes. 

Add Pernod and reduce liquid by half. Add tomatoes and chicken stock. Reduce to simmer and cook, covered about 20 minutes. 

Puree in a blender until smooth. Return to pot and add cream and half and half. Bring to a boil, simmer 5 minutes, and remove from heat. Add Tabasco. 

Fennel bulb and Pernod are optional. I usually don’t have either so almost always make the soup without. Good quality canned tomatoes are preferred, but I often use regular old grocery store Hunt’s. The imported Italian ones are the best but cost more—San Marzano or Muir Glen are both good brands. 

Heavy cream and half and half make for a silky delicious soup, but you can substitute less caloric milk for part of the dairy or leave it out and use only stock. Thin to your preference. 

Restaurants make many variations on this method for soup of the day, substituting any other vegetable: broccoli, mushroom, spinach, asparagus, potato/leek, squash, beet, carrot, etc.

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One Response to Come Fly With Me: Cream of tomato soup

  1. Lara says:

    “Our trifecta was complete” !!! You made me laugh 😊
    I can’t tell you how long I’ve been looking for a great cream of tomato soup recipe–now, I’ve got the best! ❤️

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