One box of fart bombs, please, I said, smiling at the toyshop owner. I put the small, red box emblazoned with caution tape – “MEGA STINKY! GAS MASK REQUIRED!” – on the counter.
The shopkeeper grinned back. It had been his idea, after all. And that’s it for my weak defense. I’m the one who tucked the box inside the care package going to a US soldier overseas, in hopes of bringing hilarity to a grim place. I mailed my soldier friend two packages on February 9. One arrived about a week ago. The other one is AWOL. Can it be a coincidence that the missing box contained the fart bombs? While I wait for the FBI to show up on my doorstep, let me tell you about this cheese soup.
It’s the recipe you’ve been looking for if you’ve ever loved a ladies-who-lunch kind of repast at a tearoom-style restaurant. A local favorite near where I live offers a cup of soup like this along with a scoop of chicken salad and three fingers of raisin bread sandwiches filled with pineapple cream cheese. It’s the most comforting lunch imaginable, except (shhhh…) my soup tastes better. And yes, men like it, too.
I’ve made several batches of cheese soup lately, for my family and for a dear friend who is ailing and for a neighbor battling a scary diagnosis. The quart jars of soup went in care packages with other foods to round out a meal. Fart bombs were not included.
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Epilogue: The second package arrived at its destination around February 28, a little banged up but all contents intact. None of the fart bombs activated en route, for which I am eternally grateful. My soldier friend probably wishes I’d stick to sending packages of yogurt-covered pretzels and Reader’s Digest magazines from now on. I think I will. (Edited 3/5/15)
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Cheese Soup, adapted from a recipe laboriously typed out on an index card so many years ago that I cannot remember its source. I’m posting a photo of the front of the index card below, for anyone who’s curious about my highly refined, technical recipe adaptation process. Basically, I argue with myself in ink.
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup shredded, peeled carrots
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (a gluten-free flour blend works just fine)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups whole milk
2 cups half and half
4 cups chicken broth (vegetable broth can be substituted with fine results)
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 pound processed American cheese, cut into chunks (Velveeta, please)
Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, then add the onions, carrots, and celery and sauté until tender, about 15 minutes. Add the flour and cornstarch, stirring until smooth. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk, stirring quickly to make a smooth sauce, then whisk in the half and half. Make sure no lumps of flour remain. Whisk in all of the broth and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the soup begins to thicken and bubble.
Stir in the baking soda and cheese. Reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring constantly, just until the cheese melts. Serve immediately.
Make 2 quarts.