What more could possibly be said about soup after my three blogs in 2010 about the Slow Food Lucchese e Compitese soup tournament (see links below)? Lots, judging by the animated discussions at the last elimination round last Thursday.
First, this isn’t a tournament in which any old liquid served in a bowl can be submitted to the judges (who are us, the public). It’s not the case that one cook makes cream of mushroom and another leek and potato. This is a competition only for ‘zuppa alla frantoiana’. The nearest we get to it in English is ‘minestrone’. But this doesn’t mean that every entry is the same. Quite the reverse. Every entry is startlingly different from the others.
There is general agreement on the four basic ingredients:
- beans, either red beans of Lucca or borlotti
- cavolo nero
- olive oil, new season extra virgin of Lucca (naturally)
- stale, toasted bread
After that, it’s every cook on her or his own. The variations are numerous and depend on the family recipe — mamma’s or nonna’s or mother-in-law’s.
At the delightful rustic restaurant A’ Palazzo (Brancoli), the diners I could hear from my table seemed to have very refined palettes. One woman identified marjoram, perhaps too much, in one sample. Another definitely too much thyme. A big argument about fennel (seed and fresh). Should there be any? No, said some. Definitely, said others, but if there’s too much it covers the other flavours. A couple of my bugbears are no whole beans and too much bread (this isn’t pappa al pomodoro, after all).
The winner? Manuela Girelli of the Brancoli. I might have been even prouder than her husband — notice his big grin because it’s his mother’s recipe. Her zuppa tasted very similar to the one I make. Maybe I should enter next year’s tournament?
Tonight is the GRAND FINALE!!!! I’m taking Debra Kolka, who writes the Bagni di Lucca and Beyond blog, and she’ll be reporting on it with lots of great photos.