14 September 2015

Margaret Laurence's Cauliflower Soup

"I'm going out for more milk."

"You're kidding."

"It takes an awful lot."

"We have cream. Why don't you use that?"

"But then it wouldn't be the way Margaret Laurence made it."

Domestic dialogue between me and my wife from this weekend past. The subject is soup. I'd decided to tackle one of Margaret Laurence's favourite recipes. It was her very own creation. You can understand the attraction, I'm sure.

Now, I'm a really crummy cook, so it really says something that I had a hard time sticking to the recipe. The temptation to tweak was great. Water? Why not broth? A red pepper might add colour and taste. Those two quarts of milk seem like a lot, don't they? Of course, Laurence suggests that I might use less, but how am I to interpret "or however much you need for right amount for your soup pot"?

The result was a bland, watery mixture. I raised spoon to mouth reminding myself that this was what might have been served had I ever been invited to the writer's Lakefield home. It would've been impolite not to finish. Having never read Laurence, my Québecoise wife and teenaged daughter pushed their bowls away.

When came time to clear the table I turned to my wife. "Margaret Laurence was a much better novelist than cook," I said.

"So are you."

"But I'm not a novelist."


As far as I know, the recipe for Margaret Laurence's cauliflower soup was first published in Those Marvelous Church Suppers (Kelowna, BC: Wood Lake, 1985). I took it from The CanLit Foodbook, (Toronto: Totem, 1987), which was compiled and illustrated by Margaret Atwood. Husband Graeme's recipes dominate.

The CanLit Foodbook was meant as a fundraiser in aid of PEN International and the Writer's Trust. Donations may be made by clicking on the links provided.

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  1. The soup looks and sounds irresistible, dammit. If only I could cook! Wait...I see you can't either, and...but you say Laurence probly wasn't either? At least not as good as she wrote? Then perhaps I should start with one of her novels...but the soup still looks good...

    1. I can say with certain authority that it looks much better in photographs, Mathew. I've since been told by someone who knew Laurence that she was a horrible cook. Wish I'd known that last week.

  2. Even mentioned twice in King's biography of Margaret Laurence. Pretty bad,from all acounts, though Laurence thought that there was nothing wrong with it.


    1. Oh, dear, "her ghastly cauliflower soup". I read the King bio when it was published, but did not remember. Would that I had - I'd have tried Constance Beresford-Howe's 'Filets of Sole in Champaigne' instead.

      Good catch, Anon!

      (No pun intended.)