The Ritual Pumpkin Slaughter

The 2004 Green Corn Project Fundraiser at Boggy Creek Farm found our hero clad in a fire-retardant suit with an array of sacrificial blades from around the world... A trembling, innocent pumpkin slaughtered before a horrified audience for the sake of making soup.

First you need to sharpen your knives...

Then you don your headgear and safety glasses and attack the pumpkin...

Carefully examine your first cut...

Blend it up in a pot...

And voila! Pumpkin soup.

Soup Peddler Goes To France

Here we go! Since my olfactories have recently been on the fritz, I decided to take an assistant along...

First things first, we got some soup. This is the classic soupe de poisson. It's a goddam work of art. See that bottle of water in the corner? It cost more than the soup...

Of course, you can't just eat soup without washing it down with a Nutella and banana crepe...

And you can't have a Nutella and banana crepe without climbing the Eiffel Tower and getting engaged...

We celebrated, as Parisians so often do, with some moldy cheese...

We washed it down with some raw fish...

Some beef, or veal, or something dead...

Some pigs' heads...

And some more CHEESE!

But seriously, folks, that last run of pictures was taken at Rungis, the biggest food market in the world. It is the modern replacement of Les Halles, Zola's "Belly of Paris". It's so big that there's a building specifically for innards. That's big. Here we are at the flower pavilion, whose millions of blossoms adorn the tables upon which the great foods of Paris are served.

We checked into some dessert action...

Yes, checked into some dessert action...

Still checking into dessert action...

Every one an original...

Rest assured, these apple tarts are both low-carb AND low-fat...

OK, OK, now we've arrived in Southern France, in Provence. This is your basic dumpy Provencal village...

We stayed with Laurence (pictured at left), an old family friend...

Her boyfriend, Fredy, runs a stable that only holds Spanish stallions. These stunning creatures enjoy better hair care than 99.44% of the animal kingdom, including most humans...

The horses know their ancestry better than we do. This picture shows me atop Galeno the Sixth... how many of you can trace six generations?

Alright, now we're getting down to business. We came here to WORK, not play. This is Annie, Laurence's mum, who was my soupmaking teacher...

She taught me soupe au pistou and soupe de poisson. We went to market on Saturday morning to pick up some necessities. In the bottom left of this picture, note the pile of herbes de Provence. If your kitchen lacks this, you really ought to reconsider the way you've been conducting your life...

Sausage. I just like the sense of motion in this picture. It's almost like they're coming at you...

These are the fish that are used for soupe de poisson, and the reason that any version that I attempt to make for the soupies will be at least partially fraudulent. You can't get anything like this in the States. Um, can we get a closeup of that?

There, much better. You see, the reason that soupe de poisson is so healthy is that you basically eat the entire fish, skin, bones, and all. Just pop off the heads, scoop out the guts, and throw them in the pot...

Of course, we couldn't just get olive oil at the market. No, none of the hundreds of bottles of oil at the market would do. They were hardly edible, according to our hosts. We had to go right to the mill and get a bottle from the old olive oil peddler himself...

But you can't cook or work without having lunch first. Here, Annie and Fredy are shucking mussels to be served raw...

Grilling some sardines for another course. We ate lunch in Annie and Claude's farmhouse almost every day during our time in the South. Unfortunately, since there was such a language barrier between us, my only means of communication was overeating. That's the only clear signal I could give to my hosts that I was enjoying my stay...

Finally, after a huge meal and a nap out by the sunflowers (remember Van Gogh's Sunflowers? Painted near Arles), it was finally time to get down to business. Chef's knife? Cutting board? No, thank you... Annie's calloused left thumb would be all the cutting surface she'd need...

Here I am trying to calculate how long it would take to prep a 25-gallon batch of this soup, beheading fish after unfortunate fish...

That enamel pot has seen more soup than Bertha, our 25-gallon kettle...

See, there's the soupe de poisson in its early stage. Everything gets blended together...

OK, it was a great trip to Arles. We saw lots of Roman ruins and such. To round out the visit, we went down to the Mediterranean coast to see a corrida. Fredy is a former torero himself and was very nervous to take us to the fight, since there are many subtleties and apparent incongruities that may be offensive to us. For example, when I took this picture, the crowd was booing this bull because he displayed very little fight. I drew many stares because I was simultaneously applauding him for being the most intelligent bull of the day. He actually understood his fate from the beginning and decided to leave this life with a sense of calm, on his own terms...

You can't just end your trip to France with a bloodbath like that, so you often times must realign your senses with a trip to the Opera Garnier, one of the most amazing buildings on the planet. You get all dressed up, purchase one of those little velvet-lined boxes, and sit down to enjoy some high culture. Enough with the low culture! The only thing is, you walk away with a cricked neck because the bastards, while spending decades on the dripping, gilded ornamentation of the house, forgot to plan on things like, oh, whether the patrons could actually see from their seats. A little thing called sight lines. This, from the same culture that problem-solved their misplaced traffic lights by adding miniature eye-level traffic lights instead of moving them across the intersection where they're supposed to be! Anyway, after the opera, we realized there was one thing that we still hadn't done, and this was our last night to do it...

SNAILS! YES!! Here's Meredith choking down the last of her fair share of the plate. Escargot, for those of you that are wondering, is what you eat after you've run out of everything else. They only serve them because the manufacturers of all the specialized escargot service accoutrements would go out of business...