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The Dangerous History of Potato Leek Soup

by Marleigh Culver March 23, 2021

The Dangerous History of Potato Leek Soup

Bienvenue! Marleigh here, Good Stock’s directeur de créationAs we grow and find new soup lovers to connect with, we’ve been talking internally about all the content for our emails and how and WHY we talk about our beloved soups. This lead me to think about soup origin stories: What about these dishes does Good Stock choose these soups to champion? Where do these soups come from? Who died and made this person say they were soups worth making and selling to the masses? Ben did, obviously.

In a meeting we were talking about doing a focus on the origins of Potato Leek soup, a mini deep dive aka shallow dive because although drowning in soup seems a fun way to go it may be painful if the soup’s too hot. Oh god, I’m getting weird again. Let’s begin.

When you Google ‘Potato Leek Soup’ you immediately get sent to Wikipedia, but in a way that seems disconnected. On the page for ‘Vichyssoise’, past the description of the satisfying simplicity of the soup (‘a thick soup made of boiled and puréed leeks, onions, potatoes, cream, and chicken stock’), the background unfolds.

The reason you get sent to the Vichyssoise page (a French-style soup served cold) is that in the 18th century, a very rich man with a white, powdered wig had people feed him his food. This was called being a King and his name was Louis XV. Debated by culinary historians, one story about potato leek soup is that King Louis XV was afraid of being poisoned so he would sacrifice his servants for them to “test” his food. With the soup continuing to pass to the servants, if none of them started violently turning ill or turning pink (this is a sign of being poisoned thanks to my extensive research in true crime podcasts - hmu if you need recs) the soup eventually made its way to the king. The thing was that the soup was cold by this time, and if you’ve ever denied food to a hungry powerful man you know better than to keep him waiting, and so, the cold potato leek soup known as ‘vichyssoise’ was allegedly born. Now, I hear you. That’s not really about Potato Leek itself. No, but it was an intriguing story to me and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

There is debate that Julia Child says it is an American invention. Very American of her to say, no? (Side question: French toast has to be an American French invention. Right?)  Another angle is that a French chef who headed the kitchen at the Ritz Paris in the early 1910s took a dish his mother made from his childhood constructed of potato and leeks and made it a patron favorite by cooling it down with milk. And then ANOTHER angle is that a different French man, Jules Gouffé, had invented the hot version of potato leek soup. Some more sleuthing leads me to believe it was invented in Wales. (The French are going to be sooo ticked off if this is true!) There’s much to debate, and depending on how cold you like your soup, feel free to keep searching for the answer wherever it may be. This is a great plug for our Potato Leek soup, and now you have the option of having it cold or hot.Combien souple

If that doesn’t want to make you learn more about and eat more soup, well, I tried. This heap of vegetables disguised as a creamy delight became a regular home meal in America thanks to the unforgettable Julia Child, and now it’s a seasonal favorite we love to bring back to you. Now run off and get some before it comes off the menu again until next year, and don’t forget the croutons!Au revoir!

Shop Potato Leek Soup

[Resources: 1.Beloved Wikipedia 2. My fiancé’s copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, pg 37-38 3. Farmer's Almanac]

Marleigh Culver
Marleigh Culver

1 Response

Fred Kolo
Fred Kolo

March 23, 2021

Before I had even turned the page to your thoughtful piece on the Potato Leek soup I thought to myself: just add a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream, a grind or two of good pepper, and some chopped chives and after some time in the fridge you’d have a perfect Vichyssoise. Nice! Fred

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