This is a soup with a story. It’s essentially a minestrone, so you might think that our tale is going to start in Italy, with a grandmother tending a simmering pot for hours—and you’d be partly right. Except that this story is about my good friend’s great-grandparents, and the pot was simmering on a stove in a bar in Sacramento, California.
Now, Sacramento has a long history as a drinking town. So from the first days of the California Gold Rush, to the speakeasies of prohibition, to—I can only imagine—the indulgences of today’s state government bigwigs, there has been a steady stream of drinking establishment clients in need of a little something to help them sober up.
Our story, this soup’s story, takes place in the respectable post-prohibition era. So it’s the 1930′s, maybe, and later the 1940′s. The bar is remembered in family lore only as “The Joint,” which may or may not have been its name. It resided within what was, at the time, the oldest standing building in Sacramento. A watering trough waited outside the door for customers arriving by horse and buggy. And my friend’s great-grandparents, the proprietors, always kept a pot of this minestrone soup behind the bar. The recipe, needless to say, has been passed down through the generations. Continue reading