Among my soup travels, I count the pursuit of the great Tuscan ribollita among my very top experiences. A lot of people confuse Tuscan with Tusken, the nomadic Sand People of Tatooine, home planet of Anakin and Luke Skywalker. I'm speaking of the great culinary region in northern Italy... Toscana, or Tuscany. Italy, the country that gave humanity the italic font style. Font, often used interchangeably with typeface, but also the diminutive of fountain, which is a water-gushing installation in the center of most Italian squares, like the one in Firenze outside the restaurant where I tasted the best ribollita of my life. A photo of that soup may be found here. One of my favorite food quotes of all time is noted there. It is from the pen of Waverly Root... a food anthropologist from the time when saying "from the pen of" was meant quite literally. He says, "Florentine food is hearty and healthy, subtle in its deliberate eschewing of sophistication, which is perhaps the highest sophistication of all." I believe that that quote has much to say about what we try to accomplish daily here at The Soup Peddler. Back to the ribollita, though. I had sampled a few during the trip, but this one, at the end of a weary day of walking, sucking exhaust from countless Vespas and Fiats, tucked into a comfortable white-tablecloth, the alcohol molecules from a few glasses of red wine now swishing in a leisurely fashion alongside the corpuscles in my bloodstream... this one was possibly the apex of my eating life. Thoroughly slicked with olive oil, fluffed with overcooked zucchini, vegetal with soft cabbage, salted nearly to the limit of my tongue's capacity to process flavor, held together only by a lattice of soggy day-old bread. The epitome of the Root quote, sitting in real life on the table in front of me. What a poor Food Network travelogue host I would have been at that moment, unable to moan dramatically with pleasure or high-five the chef, consumed as I was in a private High Anxiety flavor spiral (see: Vertigo flavor spiral, for more sophisticated filmgoers), spinning, dizzy, lost in a timeless vortex, swirling in a maelstrom of sensation.
I set my sights to try to re-create the soup... if only to conjure a fraction of the experience... for my beloved Soupies. As well as possible, I reverse-engineered the recipe and feel that we've done a righteous job of producing it in quantity. In a nod to health, we back off on the salt and oil but do recommend the optional home augmentation thereof. To this day, it is my favorite vegan soup. Vegan, by design! Believe it or not.