Silky potato leek soup — faces on the American road

Simple, delicious potato leek soup

LeekSoup

Recipe follows at end… (that’s why it’s “Journeys over a Hot Stove” – the “journey” part of the blog is over the “hot stove” part).

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Driving from the east toward northern New Mexico sends you almost invariably through Kansas, well south of I-70 onto US 54 – through Wichita and west through Kingman, Pratt, Hays and Greensburg where suddenly you have a choice: veer right to Dodge City and then scoot down US 56, or stay on 54 down to Liberal, in the southwest corner of Kansas. Either way, you see plenty of the Oklahoma panhandle before crossing over to Clayton, New Mexico. We’ve done this trip half a dozen times or more in both directions, and naturally we look for new routes, including dusty county roads, just to see what we might be missing.

But our Kansas route always took us though Greensburg. It’s home to the country’s largest hand-dug well – about thirty feet wide and a hundred feet deep – which supplied water to the town for some fifty years. Greensburg is also famous for being completely obliterated by an EF5 tornado in 2007 – the largest tornado to touch down in the U.S. in eight years, with a funnel some two miles wide and winds over 200 mph. The tornado was wider than the town and struck it dead center. It killed 14 of the town’s 1500 residents and reduced more than 95% of its homes and buildings to kindling.

The town is still rebuilding seven years later, but with only half as many people and houses. Everyone else took off, leaving only their foundation slabs as a reminder they were once there. In keeping with the town’s name, what’s being rebuilt is going “green:” all new city buildings are being built to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) “platinum” standards, making Greensburg the first town in the U.S. to do so. Its power comes now from wind turbines, with corporate support from Ben & Jerry’s, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and others. In this regard, at least, Greensburg is # 1 in the country. Nice work.

I haven’t been there since the tornado, but on our several trips through it we always stopped for supplies or to poke into an antique shop. Maybe someone we’d speak to would give us some insight into why they lived here, for how long, and how they spent their time – or maybe even pose for a photo. For whatever reason, it never happened. I liked the town. It was pretty and had a friendly vibe. But we never made any connection past that. It happens.

I’ve always liked photographing people in different parts of the U.S. – friends, random acquaintances, strangers. When I don’t know them well or we’ve just met, I always ask permission, and they almost always say yes. (The exception here is “street” photography – like the carney worker below – which is capturing an image of someone without their knowledge. I used to do some of that but no longer).

Faces are their own language. Even if they speak quietly, like some of these below.

Savannah - young man selling paper roses
Savannah – young man selling roses made from palm fronds.
Wounded Knee, Pine Ridge Res, South Dakota - Valerie Bear Eagle Brown Eyes in front of the hill where the 7th Cavalry opened fire on a gathering of Lakota in 189, killing as many as 300 men, women, and children.
Wounded Knee, Pine Ridge Res, South Dakota – Valerie Bear Eagle Brown Eyes in front of the hill where the 7th Cavalry opened fire on a gathering of Lakota in 1890, killing as many as 300 men, women, and children.
Eufaula, Alabama - Tom.
Eufaula, Alabama – Tom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiter/Host outside a restaurant in Little Italy, New York City
Waiter/Host outside a restaurant in Little Italy, New York City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Sapelo Island, Georgia - mother and daughter at the island's annual fall festival, celebrating its Gullah-Geechee cultural heritage.

Sapelo Island, Georgia – mother and daughter at the island’s annual fall festival, celebrating its Gullah-Geechee cultural heritage.
Near Trinidad, Colorado - Old truck auction. We became friends with woman in f.g., a horse trainer and rodeo competitor
Near Trinidad, Colorado – Old truck auction. We became friends with woman in f.g., a horse trainer and rodeo competitor.
Savannah - Street musician (excellent saxophone player). A Vietnam vet, he lost his right eye to shrapnel.  
Savannah – Street musician (excellent saxophone player). A Vietnam vet, he lost his right eye to shrapnel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lake Arthur, Louisiana - Mayor Red Giles
Lake Arthur, Louisiana – Mayor Red Giles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hill Country, South Carolina - produce vendor specializing in hand ground cornmeal and honey. I asked him if the honey came from clover, and he said, "No! It comes from bees!"
Hill Country, South Carolina – produce vendor specializing in hand ground cornmeal and honey. I asked him if the honey came from clover, and he said, “No! It comes from bees!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Meadows, Idaho - drifter on the road from somewhere back there to someplace else
New Meadows, Idaho – drifter on the road from somewhere back there to someplace up ahead.
Atlanta - panhandler and a Braves fan.
Atlanta – panhandler and a Braves fan.

Great Falls, Montana - Carney worker at the Montana State Fair (this is a "street" photo - I didn't get his permission for this shot)

Great Falls, Montana – Carney worker at the Montana State Fair (this is a “street” photo – I didn’t get his permission for this shot)

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Back to the soup…

leeks/potatoes

This potato leek recipe originally started with James Beard, who never shied away from rich food. His version called for thickening the soup with flour, which I think is a waste of good flour. The way we do it at home, it’s leeks, diced potatoes, butter, chicken broth or stock, and some spices, and that’s it.  No milk or cream, no flour, no nothing else. It’s simple, very smooth, and is great hot or cold.

Usually I use a clear chicken broth for the soup, but this batch, in the photos, features a fairly rich chicken stock (hence the darker coloring).

MmmmThat’s right: they’ll go “Mm…” Here’s the recipe – just drag and drop.

LeekSoupRecipe

There you have it.

Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is an author, photographer, crossword constructor, humorist, traveler through 49 states, and an avid cook. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.