Soupe à la crème sûre et aux pommes de terre

There is not much to say about a potato soup where all one has to do is boil diced potatoes in a small amount of water until they turn to mush and add some sour cream, salt, and pepper.

Voilà—that is the recipe for the "Soupe à la crème sûre et aux pommes de terre" in Le Livre de la Nouvelle Mariée.

A more interesting question would be: Is this soup healthy?

The 2014 reader might say that in this meal you have your starches/carbohydrates, plus a few vitamins in the potatoes and your fat and proteins in the sour cream, however the dish could be improved by including other vegetables to provide more vitamins and depending on whether you are trying to lower your blood pressure or you need to replace your salts after a long workout, the salt content is debatable. Whether the dish is high or low in calories doesn’t determine how healthy it is—if you haven’t eaten much else for the day and are short of your daily calorie count then a higher calorie meal is nutritious. Still, the nutritional content of the food seems pretty cut and dry right? Wrong.

We need to ask the question “is the soup healthy” within its historical context.  Throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries ideas of nutrition have fluctuated greatly. Within each era ideas of health are greatly contested. The back pages of this text represent only one set of ideas about 1930s nutritional standards. It is important to remember that while the role of the expert, especially the professional doctor, had grown significantly in power during this time period, the power of the expert was not absolute.

Perhaps it is easier to understand these contestations within more recent times. How can we forget the early 2000s? In one year the Atkins’s carbs-are-the-enemy/ eat-only-meat diet swept the region… yet vegetarians and vegans concurrently held views that animal products were unhealthy for humans, the environment, and/or morality. National health boards in the USA and Canada promoted food pyramids, while various scientists, researchers, gurus, and activists debated the placement of each food group. At the same time, international attention focused on the obesity epidemic while simultaneously discussing starvation around the world.

The point is that no matter how much this book tries to position itself as promoting nutritional eating, even if it relies on expert claims of scientists and government officials, ideas of health and nutrition are not wholly objective. I am not saying that there is no such thing as healthier eating or biological needs, but the discourses around health are socially constructed and historically situated.

Final thoughts: the soup tasted fine but it was so plain that I doubt I will ever make it again. In case anyone wants the recipe to this boring soup, see below:

(post by Alex Ketchum)