Typically, I come up with a witty (or so I think) title for each post that combines both book and food. But this book deserves so much more than a silly, witty title.
In 1993, Outside magazine writer Job Krakauer wrote an article titled, Death of an Innocent, which told the story of the 1992 death of hiker Christopher McCandless, as he explored in infinite abyss that is the Alaskan outback. In 1996, Krakauer wrote a full detailed account of McCandless’ story titled, Into the Wild, which was later made into the 2007 movie hit.
Chris McCandless, also known as Alexander Supertramp, didn’t need much. In fact, he gave away his entire life savings and all his possessions to live as Jack London portrayed life in The Call of the Wild. But his minimalist and humble nature touched everyone he encountered on his transcendental journey to Fairbanks, Alaska.
I first compared McCandless’ experience to that of fellow transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, who notably built a small cabin in the forest of Massachusetts. Except, where McCandless was alone and thrived for as long as he did by eating squirrels, equally as emaciated as himself, I believe someone told me once that the forest Thoreau lived in was in the backyard of his friend, writer Ralph Waldo Emerson. Though this may be something I contrived in my head. So don’t quote me on that.
In February 1992, after battling the weather, illness, and starvation, McCandless passed away in the abandoned school bus that he called home, somewhere lodged deep in Fairbanks. Krakauer alluded to a moldy potato seed as the cause of death. This showed not only the extreme nature of McCandless condition, but also of the unique vegetation he was dealing with.
One of my favorite scenes in the book was when his parents visited the van that their son lived in. His mother fumbled through his first aid kit, his assortment of utensils. She stared at his handwriting which graffitied the walls of the bus. She sat on the bed where McCandless’ body was found, and she stared at his boots tucked away beneath the stove. His mother said, “I haven’t prayed since we lost him.”
Inside the bus is McCandless’ journal that described his deepest thoughts, darkest concerns, and his notable epiphany that he was going to die. He wrote: “ I have had a happy life and thank the Lord. Goodbye and may God bless all.”
Krakauer captured McCandless moments in few, but suiting words and conveyed his parent’s visit to the bus with the same sensitivity and detail. For that reason, it is one of my all time favorite books. I never saw the movie for fear that it will ruin the beauty of Krakauer’s writing, and the legend that is Christopher McCandless.
A proper translation for this book was simple to decide. Out of the final potato seed that did him in, I made a potato soup. Potato, leek, apple, bacon soup, actually. It is warm and comforting and just the feeling of home. I can only hope that McCandless thought of something just as comforting that day in February 1992.
This recipe is going to make an insane amount of soup. So get your biggest pots ready. I froze my leftovers so I can keep enjoying this recipe whenever I want.
Creamy Potato Leek Apple Bacon Soup
Ingredients For Vegetable Broth:
(If you don’t want to make your own broth, you can feel free to use ready made vegetable broth. )
2 Large green peppers
2 Turnips (which are my new favorite veggie)
1 Large onion
6-8 Celery stalks
1/2 Cup fresh parsley
1 Large bunch garlic
1/4 Cup olive oil
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)
16 Cups water
1 teaspoon peppercorns
3 bay leaves
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit. Cut green peppers, turnips, carrots, tomatoes, onion and celery stalks in half. Leave garlic bunch whole. Place veggies on sheet pan and drizzle olive oil, salt, and pepper over veggies.
- Place in oven and let roast for 50 minutes. Then, flip veggies over and let cook for another 30 minutes. Once they are all fork tender and browned, remove from oven.
- In a large pot, add 16 cups of water, as well as ALL your delicious veggies. Okay, fine, you can eat a turnip or carrot if you want.
- Turn to medium heat and add more salt, the peppercorns, parsley, and bay leaves. Let sit until it boils. Then turn it down to low heat and let simmer until it reduces in size to about half.
- Set aside for soup.
Ingredients For Soup:
4 HUGE potatoes. I used butter potatoes because they’re called butter potatoes and that’s awesome. But any kind of potato will do.
2 Apples of any kind. I used Gala apples.
15 Strips bacon….. 🙂
2 1/2 Cups 2% milk
2 1/2 Cups heavy cream
1 Cup gruyere cheese
1/2 Cup parmesan cheese.
- Cut 5 strips of bacon into small 1 inch cubes and fry. Once cooked, set aside.
- Cut potatoes, leeks, and apples into 1 inch cubes and fry them in the bacon grease 🙂 I never said this was going to be a healthy soup. Just delicious. Cook until slightly fork tender, but not completely.
- Then, Add 3 1/2 to 4 cups of your vegetable broth and cook until the broth has been absorbed and the potatoes are nice and soft.
- Set aside. Cut 10 pieces of bacon into 1 inch cubes and set aside. I promise all the set aside goods will unite momentarily.
- The next step must be done in batches unless you have an insanely large food processor. The ratio is 3:1:1…. 3 cups of your potato, apple, leek mixture to 1 cup of heavy cream, to one cup of 2% milk. Puree potato mixture with 2% milk and heavy cream until it reaches a smooth consistency. I set aside 2 cups of mixture because I wanted big chunks of it in my soup. Add more milk or heavy cream if you desire a thinner soup.
- Once it is all pureed, add in chunks of bacon and chives cut thinly. Pour some soup into ramekins and cover the tops with grated gruyere and parmesan cheese. Bake in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven until the tops are gooey and golden brown.
- Top with some fresh apple chunks, bacon, and chives.
- I had some leftover garlic which was roasted with my veggies, and gruyere cheese so I smeared the garlic onto big slices of sourdough bread and sprinkled the cheese and chives on top. I tossed this in the oven with my soup and took them our when they were golden brown. Super. Delicious.