My favorite potato soup

“Don’t drain the fat off, this gives so much flavor!” This is the most important lesson I’ve ever been taught. Ever.

Yes, even more important than our mom’s plea to all of us kids: “Are you wearing clean underwear? If you’re in a car accident, you want to be wearing clean underwear!” Really, Mom? This was your biggest concern as we piled into the car, where no one wore a seat belt? And we wrestled in the back seat, falling into the front? And got the cigarette lighter hot, threatening to burn whoever looked at us wrong?

“Don’t drain the fat,” came from my sister, Sue. By way of our father. Regarding the bacon I would be cooking for potato soup, when I asked her for the recipe Dad made.

Sue emailed it to me. I copied it into a word document. It is clear to me that I didn’t edit Sue at all—she writes the way she talks—though I have underlined the wise advice:

Note the exacting detail. So precise in every aspect that even I, who had never before made potato soup, could follow it and produce a pot of goodness to taste exactly like our father’s.

Not. Even. Close.

I think I attempted it once. I needed precision. I searched recipes online. Finding one called Easy Potato Soup, I created a hybrid of that and Dad’s.

And I kept the key: don’t drain the fat off, this gives so much flavor! And I wrote down the exact measurements I came up with. And I always wear clean underwear when making it.

  • 1 lb bacon
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 2 lbs potatoes (5 to 7 potatoes)
  • 8 tbs butter
  • 8 tbs flour
  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • Salt to taste (perhaps 2 tsp)
  • Pepper to taste (at least 1 tsp)

And here’s how I make it.

Cut the bacon into inch-long pieces. Chop the onion. Put it on for a slow fry.

Gather your spuds. Weigh them if you like, to ensure you have at least two pounds. Peel them. Cut them into bitesize pieces. Toss ’em into your big pot.

By this time, the bacon and onions are nicely underway. With the pan evenly hot from the large burner, I slide it over to a smaller one, where it will continue to cook just fine. Stir the bacon occasionally so that it cooks evenly. Boil the taters till tender.

Drain those spuds and set them aside in a bowl. Reduce the heat and get a stick of butter melting.

Melt it slowly enough so it doesn’t burn. Once melted, spoon in the flour. Whisk it smooth.

Begin adding the milk, perhaps two cups at a time. Cook it slowly, so as not to burn the bottom of the pan. Whisk often. As it thickens, add more milk.

When you are pleased with how thick it is, stir in the salt and pepper. Add the spuds.

Now, admire the pan of bacon and onions. Note that there is not that much grease. The onions have done their work, soaking up lots of it. Good job, onions! You will taste so marvelous!

As you now add to the soup this blessed pan of deliciousness, scrape every last bit of grease from the pan. You’ll thank me, later. And you’ll thank my sister, Sue. And you’ll bless the name of our father, John.

There’s no need for further cooking. Simply blend it all.

Remove the pot from the heat. I like to let it sit for a bit—30-60 minutes—to get it to a temperature that makes it just right for eating.

And eating.

And eating.

Bon soupetit!

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