Magic Soup

Everyone has that recipe.  The one that’s your personal cure-all: headache, heartbreak, fevers, colds, bad days, hangovers.  This one is mine–it was passed to me from a friend, who learned it from an old hippie woman in her hometown fifteen years ago.  It can be vegetarian, omnivorous, or vegan, and it will always be delicious.

You’ll need:

  • 32 oz beef stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 16 oz water OR 16 oz red wine OR a combination of the two, totaling 16 oz
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp caraway seed
  • 2 tsp marjoram
  • Dash of soy sauce (optional)
  • A bunch of garlic (I usually use 8-10 cloves), smashed and chopped fine
  • 1-2 shallots, diced (it should be a good handful)
  • Olive oil
  • Slices of good bread (como, ciabatta, or any artisan loaf)
  • Gruyere cheese, sliced (enough for a couple slices to go on each piece of bread)
  • Forgiving family and friends if they have to be around you post-meal.

This conceivably feeds four, but more likely three, and usually two.  Or you can really get into it and eat the whole pot on your own.  You do you, I’ve eaten the whole thing before, but I had garlic breath for two days.

  1. Dump a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan–not enough to drown the veggies in, but enough to coat them.  Heat to medium.
  2. Sautee the shallots for a minute or so, then, when they start to change texture, dump in the garlic.  Stir regularly and keep a close eye on it, because good sautéed garlic is perfect, but burned garlic gives everyone the sads.
  3. Once the veggies are sautéed nicely, dump in the liquids (broth, wine, water), bring to a boil.
  4. Once at a boil, dump in the spices and soy sauce, and stir.  Reduce to a simmer, then simmer uncovered for approximately 30 minutes.
  5. When the timer is close to done, throw the bread slices (about 1″ thick) on a cookie sheet, top with the sliced gruyere, and broil until the cheese looks good and melty.  Put one piece of cheese toast in each bowl.
  6. Ladle the soup over the cheese toast, eat.
  7. Apologize to everyone around you who has to deal with your garlic breath.
  8. Feel better.

By Jessica Werner

Free-range librarian in Seattle. A sucker for happy endings, teen angst, and books that make me want to sell my possessions and travel the world. Incurable homebody and type A. Send love letters and readers advisory requests to

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