Brian and I met when we were 18 years old, as freshmen in college. We were introduced by a mutual friend at an evening lecture in our first few weeks of school and hit it off immediately. Although we were both in long-distance relationships with high school sweethearts, we had a connection that couldn’t be denied. At least not by those around us. WE denied it, Brian and I did, despite the two years of friendship and flirting and soul-bearing conversations that followed.
We were both architecture majors, and each semester arranged our schedule so that we had all of our classes together. On the first day of school we’d get to our studio early to ensure that our desks would be located next to each other in the space where we spent most hours of our days and nights. We’d put a disc-man between us, load it with mixed CDs and plug in a pair of split headphones so that we could listen to the same music as we worked all night long on projects for the next day’s review. Our friendship continued to grow as we saw each other through relationship elation and heartache, as well as the highs and lows of life as a student of architecture. But still we denied any feelings we had for each other, insisting to those around us that we were just friends, never anything more.
The end of the second year of architecture school brings a make-it-or-break-it moment for its students – a pin-up presentation that shows your best work to a panel of your professors so that they can decide whether or not you show enough promise to proceed in the program. It is terrifying – a time when you search your soul to decide if you are truly made for architecture, and debate possibilities for what you might change your major to if you are not chosen. You are given roughly 36 hours, the time between when your last project of the semester is complete and the pin-up judgement begins, to put together a 4-foot by 8-foot board that expresses who you are as a designer.
Brian and I, of course, spent those 36 hours together, holed up in his apartment working round-the-clock with no sleep. At one point, around hour 30, I was exhausted to the point of tears and hungry for anything other than pizza or Chinese delivery. And so, Brian made me soup.
It took a few more months and the demise of our high school relationships for me to outwardly admit the feelings I had for Brian but, looking back, I believe that the moment he handed me that bowl of piping-hot potato cheese soup amidst the biggest deadline of our lives thus far was the moment I knew that there was something more between us.
This soup is still, to this day, my absolute favorite thing that he makes in our kitchen. It has morphed over the years, adjusting with our tastes and food values, but at its core is still the creamy, delicious, heart and soul-warming meal that he made me so many years ago.
Brian’s Potato Cheese Soup
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 large onion, 1/2-inch dice
- 3 stalks celery, 1/2-inch dice
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced to 1/2-inch
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 large Russet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
- 6-8 cups chicken stock (we use better than bouillon no-chicken base)
- 4 oz extra-sharp cheddar cheese, 1/2-inch cubes
- 4 oz gruyere cheese, 1/2-inch cubes
- salt + pepper
- 4 mini bread bowls
- parsley (for garnish)
- Heat butter over medium-high heat in large soup pot. Add the onion, celery, carrots and garlic and saute’ until the onions are just translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and saute’ another minute. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium (a low boil) and cook until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart. Remove from heat.
- Put the cheese cubes into a blender. Pour 2-3 ladles of hot soup on top of cheese in blender. Puree’ the mixture until smooth. Whisk the cheese puree’ back into your soup pot.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve in a sourdough bread bowl, if desired.
Virginians…check out the Virginia Chutney Festival next weekend in Sperryville, VA! I wish I were going to be in town, because their picnic menu looks amazing! It includes all locally raised and produced food – a true celebration of local flavors. For more information, check out their website at www.virginiachutney.com.