If it weren't for soup I could never make it through winter.

Winter is cold, dark, repelling. Soup is warm, rich and consoling.

I am not alone in the opinion that soup has salvific qualities. Listen to what Sarah Leah Chase, who lives on Nantucket Island off the coast of Massachusetts has to say about soup in her new book "Cold-Weather Cooking" (Workman, $13.95).

"I have learned," Ms. Chase says "after many long off-seasons weathered on a desolate island where the local electric company can't be counted on to be generating heat through the home radiators and moths have munched major cavities into once-toasty woolens, and a man-of-the-moment is not quite within cuddling range, a thick nourishing cauldron of soup is a mighty fine thermal surrogate to have handy on the back burner."

I don't know if I am quite ready for "surrogate soup," but I agree that soup can be a valuable companion. And a good soup, like a good friend, gets better with time. Such a soup is often pleasant the first time you meet up with it. But by the second and third times you hook up with it, its flavors have deepened. It is not as kind and gentle as it was the first go-round, but it is more complex and substantial.

Another thing I like about soup is its undemanding nature. Unlike pasta or stir-fried food, soup does not require a grand, carefully timed entrance to the table. Soup will wait for it.

A woman I know said that when her kids come from college, she simply puts a pot of soup on the stove and sits in the kitchen. Her kids come in, have some soup and make some conversation. Then they hurry out the door to see their friends. If she had tried a formal, sit-down meal, the kids would probably beg off. But soup, she said, snares them, if only for half an hour.

Among my favorite soups is a simple potato soup. I like it for sentimental reasons. I used to make it every Friday night in winter. At that time my wife was commuting between Chicago and our apartment in Louisville. Since she was gone most of the week, this potato soup was often the only food I really cooked all week long.

The other thing I liked about the soup was that it took at least an hour and half to cook. This gave me enough time to scrub the dishes that piled up from a week's worth of being a bachelor. At least once, the dishes were so dirty that I soaked them first in a disinfectant, then washed them again with dish soap.

Now,of course,I would never let dishes sit around for a week.That is because now I can toss them in a dishwasher.Back then I had to wash the dishes by hand,so I put the task off until Friday night.

After the mound of dishes had been purified,I would turn the burner under the soup down to low and drive to the airport to pick up my wife.

Along the way I would stop at a liquor store,buy a bottle of wine.I would cool the bottle of wine down with snow.Rarely was it new-fallen snow.Usually it was dirty snow,the kind that sits for weeks in the corners of parking lots.I got pretty good at finding snow even when it hadn't fallen for weeks.Sometimes I used a tire iron to break off chunks of snow and ice.Then I would stuff the snow in the bag holding the wine,and put the icy package in the car trunk.

Having fetched my wife from the airport we would return to our apartment to enjoy a meal of bubbling patato soup and and XTC snow-cooled wine.The dishes were so so clean,you could see your face in them.And the aroma of the soup was so strong you couldn't even get a whiff of disinfectant.

Potato soup

serves six.

3 big potatoes sliced thin

4 slices of bacon,diced

4 cups chopped onion

2 tablespoons flour

4 cups beef boullon

2 eggs yolks

1 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon parsley

1 tablespoon chervil( optional)

In a deep pot,sau te bacon for 5 minutes.Add onions and saute for five minutes.Stir in flour.

Add bouillon,stirring constantly.Add potatoes and simmer for 1 hour.

Combine egg yolks and sour cream and stir into soup.Simmer for 10 minutes stirring constantly.Add parsley and chervil

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