A Soup of Three Chords

A Soup of Three Chords

I could kill for a turkey club.  I had oral surgery last week.  After the initial swelling went down—and I was no longer able to do Vito Corleone imitations—my repertoire of pureed meals became tiresome.  

Since then even ice cream has lost its luster.

Which brings me to custards for a slight digression. I wish someone would explain why flan is listed on so many post-dental procedure diet lists.  Sure it is delicious, and soft.  But I can’t imagine many people saying, “I just had skin from the roof of my mouth grafted to my front gums, and you know what I feel like doing?  Making FLAN! What a craving!”

Anyway, things now look fairly normal from the outside, which means I have been at work all week trying to maintain a normal demeanor on pureed squash soup and mashed bananas. 

A turkey club—with its sharp right angles and bias for incisors—is still out of the question. Unless I puree it.  Which, quite frankly, I have not ruled out.

For today though, I have soup.  A few weeks ago my mom and I met up in Stockbridge and spent the weekend eating, shopping, and visiting Edith Wharton’s compound, as one does in the Berkshires. 

The food we ate in Western Massachusetts was shockingly good. We had roast turkey sandwiches at Widow Bingham's Tavern, a bar at The Red Lion Inn. The Friday after Thanksgiving kind with real turkey, stuffing, and cranberry mayonnaise on hearty bread.  We also had pork meatballs in a smoked tomato sauce that reminded me of childhood, though I can’t remember ever having a meal like that.

We also ate at Prairie Whale.  Which has all the things I look for in a restaurant. The skull of a horned animal on the wall, a very excellent beer and wine list, a menu that offers both fresh pasta and fried chicken, and a political sense of humor (see below).  Great restaurant.  Tremendous restaurant.

At No Six Depot we had a lovely soup that was plainly labeled “vegetarian lentil.” The cafe's mission is to “play three chords and the truth,” like a Dylan song.  And our soup did just that.  Which is what I am really here to talk about.

Our bowls were filled with corn, big chunks of roasted red pepper, fresh basil, and brown lentils—the kind the size of small buttons. The broth was delicate and complex, tasting faintly of tea.  Nothing ordinary about any of it.  Though, its sincerity made it easy to piece together most of its ingredients. 

With the help of Mr. Bittman and The Times, I guessed the conscious souls at the Depot capitalized on Lapsang Souchong, a smoky and oddly savory tea—perfect for a vegetarian base. It is an ingredient that delicately makes its presence known when I open the cabinet, with a misplaced whisper of bacon or scotch.

The whole soup is incredibly easy to put together and relies upon staples you can keep in your kitchen.  The only caveat is that if you are sensitive to caffeine, it might work better as a lunchtime meal.

Sadly, this pretty little soup had to be whirled in a blender this week—along with most everything else I wanted to eat.  I soon hope to broaden my liquid diet to include a glass or two of wine (no pureeing necessary).  

For now, a cocktail of lentils and tea will do.  Hopefully, its song is strong enough to keep me from shoving a beautiful turkey club in a blender. In the meantime, if you see her say hello.

Brown Lentil and Black Tea Soup


  • 1 scant cup brown lentils, picked over to remove any debris
  • ¼ cup peeled sliced fresh ginger
  • 2 to 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup tamari soy sauce
  • 10 turns of freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces frozen sweet corn
  • 16 ounce jar of roasted red peppers, drained and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ cup loosely packed basil leaves, roughly chopped or torn
Read the whole recipe on A Plum By Any Other Name