Soupe Aïgo Bouïdo à la Ménagère
Region: France, Provence
The ordinary housewife in the Middle Ages would hardly have exotic spices of the East in her soups, but she did have garlic. Garlic and onions were so abundant in the local Provençal horta (garden) that they were usually the only two products transported any distance. The other ortolagia, the vegetable products of the garden, were consumed locally. Garlic was indispensable for aïgo bouïdo, which means “garlic bouillon.”
Oil and water or water and bread soups are very old preparations once made by the housewives of Provence. Another simple Provençal “housewife” soup is called aïgo-sau d’iou, “water and salt,” a fish soup made with water and salt, plus a mixture of small white fish, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and olive oil. These soups remind us of how poor the Mediterranean was. They are not limited to Provence, either; on Menorca, the second largest of the Balearic Islands off Catalonia, one still finds the oliaigua de pagés (country-style oil/water soup), sometimes with the addition of bread. These poor “family” soups are usually very simple, made with a legume such as lentils or chickpeas or a starch such as rice or potatoes. The aromatic flavoring came from the ubiquitous garlic as well as herbs. In the Gerona region of Catalonia, a family would eat a sopa de la familia, family soup, made from potatoes, bread, and garlic.
Don’t expect to find any of these soups on a restaurant menu on your next trip to Provence or Catalonia. They are antique dishes rarely made even in the home now that Mediterranean poverty is a thing of the past. However, these kinds of soups are notable for being filling, economical, and delicious.[photo: Clifford A. Wright]
Yield: Makes 6 servings
Preparation Time: 1:05 minutes
2 quarts water
15 large garlic cloves (about 1 head), crushed
Bouquet garni, tied in cheesecloth, consisting of 8 sprigs fresh parsley, 8 sprigs fresh thyme, 8 sprigs fresh marjoram, and 1 sprig fresh sage
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 to 12 slices French bread, toasted golden or notFinely chopped fresh parsley for garnish
1. Bring the water with the garlic cloves, bouquet garni, olive oil, salt, and black pepper to boil in a 4-quart casserole and boil for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, uncovered.
2. Place one to two slices of bread in each bowl and ladle the broth over. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.