Sunday, February 8, 2015


Another chilly and snowy weekend in Upstate New York: temperatures have been mostly below freezing, some mornings below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, for several weeks now, and following last week's foot of snow, we are expecting another foot or so over the next day and a half. When the temperature gets to be -3 or -4 Fahrenheit, it is difficult to breathe because the frigid air makes your chest hurt.

With weather like this, it is time for some serious comfort food. Last weekend I made bruine boonen soep (brown bean soup) from Grandma Vanden Bergh's old Dutch cookbook, and right now I have a big pot of kerrysoep van witte boonen (curry and white bean soup) "prutteling" in the stove. "Pruttelen" is indeed a Dutch word for "simmer," but Mom Anglicized it by adding an English suffix.  Both of these recipes are hearty, savory soups that I have prepared before.

Bruine boonen soep

Although we occasionally have milder winters in this part of the northeastern United States, temperatures below freezing are typical of this time of the year, and even temps below zero, from time to time: witness Joel Munsell's 1854 Annals of Albany, referencing winter temperatures in Albany in 1807:

Notes from the Newspapers: 1807

Feb. 9. The mercury in the thermometer, at sunrise, stood at 52 degrees below freezing point, or 20 degrees below zero, in the central part of the city. Seventeen years previous  the mercury fell four degrees lower in an exposed situation on the hill; but it was thought that this was the coldest day ever experienced in the city since correct notice of the weather had been taken. (Vol. 5, page 12)

The weather "app" on my tablet cites a record low of -3 F. for February 9 (in 1985) and a record low of -15 F. for February 10 (in 1994). Apparently, the records referenced by the weather app do not go back as far as the mid-19th century! In any case, I was snowbound last Monday, and may very well be so again tomorrow, since the forecast is for the current snowstorm to last through until Tuesday morning. Luckily, I'll have plenty of savory soup to keep me warm. It should be finished "prutteling" very shortly.

Kerrysoep van witte boonen