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“If I Didn’t Know This Was Hasenpfeffer, I’d Swear It Was Carrots.”

Carrot Blog Image

The title of this posting comes from the Bugs Bunny cartoon “Shish Ka Bugs” (see it here) in which Bugs, for obvious reasons, ends up serving a pot full of raw carrots to a king who demands Hasenpfeffer (a rabbit stew).

What the heck does that have to do with a blog about soups?

Well, for one thing this week’s recipe is Carrot & Fennel Soup, which ties into the cartoon pretty directly.  It’s also about things (especially carrot-related things) surprising you by not being what they seem.

I had made an incarnation of this blended soup over Christmas, and it resulted in a gentle contrast of the sweetness of the carrots and the sharp licorice bite of the fennel. This time, however, I combined the ingredients in different proportions and the final product turned into a rich, buttery puree reminiscent of the best squash soups.  The taste came as a total surprise to me. (Could it have been the 10 pound bag of organic carrots from Costco, my favorite store in the world? Maybe.)

It could also have something to do with my expectations about carrots. This flavor was not something I associated with carrots at all. Of course, I blamed this subterranean vegetable for the confusion, but the fault was all mine.

I did the same thing to the carrot that I complain employers do to me in my job search. I pigeon-holed it.  I put it into the box that best categorized it.  What I didn’t do was consider the possibilities carrots have that are outside my current experience.

I think we’re all a little guilty of this.  We think in stereotypes because it’s easier for us to navigate the world that way. It’s not completely honest or completely fair, but it’s easier.

What we miss is the sense of possibility. We miss the untapped root of creativity that could inspire great things from each of us, employed, underemployed and unemployed alike.  In this culture we are what we do.

How’s that working out for you?

If I can be surprised by a puree of carrots and fennel, I think you could probably surprise me too.  But your life isn’t about me, it’s about you. Can you surprise yourself?

Or could it be that I just have too much time on my hands?

It’s possible.

Note:  Perhaps the better title for this post would be “If I Didn’t Know This Was Carrots, I’d Swear It Was Hasenpfeffer.”  That’s possible too.

Carrot & Fennel Soup
(serves 6-8)
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup onions, chopped
3½ cups carrots, peeled & sliced
3½ cups fennel, sliced
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Salt & pepper, to taste
Sour cream, dollops (love that word) garnish each bowl

  1. Heat the butter over medium heat in a 3-quart sauce pot. Add onions and carrots and sauté until tender (about 5 minutes) , stirring occasionally.
  2. Add fennel to the pot and continue to heat (5 minutes more).
  3. Add stock and seasonings (You know who you are salt and pepper) bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and continue simmering for about an hour.
  4. Remove from the heat and blend with an immersion blender or in batches using a standing blender.
  5. Serve as a first course or a main dish with a spoonful of sour cream dropped in the middle of the bowl.

Image Credit: Jula Rosenbluh (my daughters’ friend from back in California), copyright 2006.

Comments? Questions? Requests?  I wasn’t kidding about your joining the conversation.  I’ll be listening and responding.

13 Comments to ““If I Didn’t Know This Was Hasenpfeffer, I’d Swear It Was Carrots.””

  1. Jame says:

    That was fun! It’s nice to know that Bugs Bunny cartoons can still make me laugh.
    I’m intrigued with the image of 3 1/2 cups of carrots prompting your philosophical musings… Being limited by our expectations as opposed to being open to the unexpected. You’ve reminded me of some thoughts I had last week, after a visit with another teacher. I found myself thinking about the beauty that is all around us but to which little or no attention is given. I was thinking specifically about insects – how extraordinary they are, what complex creations… You’ve got me thinking about carrots now, too.
    Hmm. Maybe I’d better get to bed. It’s late and I’m starting to digress…
    Before I go – your soup surprised you into a reawakened sense of possibility – is that sense remaining with you? I hope so.
    I’m looking forward to making this soup. I’d also like to know, if you still know it, the ratio of carrot to fennel that you used in the previous incarnation – I’d like to try both!

    • pcandres says:

      That’s the great thing about Bugs Bunny cartoons, they work on the kids’ level and the adults’ level. It’s great writing. If you want to read about the beauty all around us in every day things, read Mary Oliver’s poetry, it’s breathtaking. Sorry, I can’t remember how to make the other soup. One of the points of this blog is to get myself to write these things down. I’ll make it again eventually, but I don’t remember the proportions of the original. Thanks for sharing and for reading.

  2. Mark Welsl says:

    I like it Phil, thanks. In particular I like the way you described stereotyping. I think it’s built into us to categorize things so we don’t have to spend all day studying the details of every person, car, building, and road we encounter every day. But it’s not a very fair system nature has developed for us.

    • pcandres says:

      You’re right, Mark,
      I used to think that at some subconscious level we were paying attention to everything around us and that if we worked at it we could recall everything in detail. Now I think we just parcel out our attention to what’s new, what’s dangerous, and what we already care about. There’s just not enough of us to go around. Stereotyping saves us some time and effort. It also lets a lot of interesting things slip away.
      Thanks for reading and for the comment.

  3. Deb Barrett says:

    Life is just full of surprises, and the best surprises can come from what at first seems like a mistake. Suddenly we look at things from a new angle, and our creativity takes off from there.

    I love your soup blog, and I’m getting some great recipes at the same time! Thanks!

    • pcandres says:

      Your comment about looking at things from a new angle reminds me of the drawing technique of turning your subject upside down before trying to draw it. If you’re looking from a different angle, you see things you don’t expect and you break out of your traditional modes of thought. Thanks for reading and thanks also for the comment.

  4. Mom says:

    I just want you to know, Phil, that you have the full approval of THE A.M.A. I love reading you and plan to try the carrot soup when we get back from our trip.

    • pcandres says:

      Hope the soup and the trip works out for you. Thanks for the comment and for reading.

  5. Anne says:

    Thanks for the suggestion to challenge ourselves. It helps a person keep growing.

    So does the soup.

    • pcandres says:

      As long as we keep growing in the right direction. I think soup can help us in that way too. It rounds out our lives but not our wastelines so much.
      Thanks for reading and for the comment.

  6. Jame says:

    Hi Phil. Jame, again. Livening up these older entries with some new comments… Declan helped me to make the Hasenpfeffer Soup – he cut the carrots. It was wonderful! (The soup, I mean, although the fact that he helped to cook was also wonderful.) A perfect blending of the carrots and the fennel. The bulbs that I ended up getting at the market were HUGE, so I ended up with enough for a second recipe!

    • pcandres says:

      Did you get the same buttery squash taste that I did? Or did the fennel stand up for itself better? Remember how I’ve gotten two different results from this combination of carrot and fennel? I’d love to know.