“It’s so hot that the terrorist alert level has been raised to Gazpacho!” — David Letterman

Several years ago one of my male friends came up to me at a party, leaned down, and whispered in my ear: “You know, sometimes, late at night, I lie awake and think about your … gazpacho.” This particular scenario might have been slightly less annoying if it hadn’t happened so many times already.

There seems to be a very strong soup-sex connection in men’s souls. My father had a habit of saying mortifying things at the dinner table whenever a boyfriend of mine was visiting from college, and one night he announced to all present, “You know you’re getting old when you lie down at night and find yourself thinking about soup instead of sex.”

My mom looked furious (you could always tell when she was furious because her lips pressed together to make a completely flat line), but it was hard to tell exactly why she was upset. There were so many possibilities:

1.) My father had acknowledged that sex exists.

2.) Worse, he had acknowledged that he was acknowledging that sex exists, a small but powerful and important difference, especially as regards parent-adult-child relationships.

3.) She felt angry that my dad had mortified me in front of my beau.

4.) She felt angry that my dad had mortified her in front of my beau.

5.) She was thinking, “What am I, chopped liver?”

I’ve never known which of these reasons set her off, and I decided it was better not to ask.

More evidence of the soup-sex connection recently cropped up when I was watching Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion. Two singing cowboys, Dusty and Lefty, tell a series of jokes, one of which goes something like: A beautiful young woman offers an older man the chance to have super sex; the older man thinks for a minute and says, “I’ll have the soup!”

So it’s not just my imagination.

Needless to say, all these gazpacho-loving men are always after my recipe, but there isn’t one. I just throw stuff into a blender, put in handfuls of garlic, and it is completely different every time. “I’m installing surveillance cameras in your kitchen!” one man said in frustration.

I will try to get it together to document one such gazpacho-making session at a future date, but for now what I can offer you instead is a recipe for a chilled tomato soup flavored with orange juice, basil, and cinnamon. I created it for a bridal shower for a close friend. It was hot out, so we served this soup, which is refreshing and also has a slightly mysterious (in a good way) flavor.

I can also offer you a recipe I created that has all of the flavors of sweet-and-sour sauce but which is light and refreshing on a summer day.

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Tomato-Orange Soup with Basil and Cinnamon
(makes about 6 cups, or 4-6 servings)

2 and 1/2 cups tomato juice
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 cups peeled, diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup loosely packed shredded basil (tear the stems off each leaf)
1 teaspoon peeled, minced fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
yogurt or sour cream (optional)

  1. Put all the ingredients into a blender that holds at least six cups of liquid.
  2. Blend until uniformly mixed. (If your blender doesn’t hold that much liquid, blend 1 cup of tomato juice with the diced tomatoes, basil, ginger, and cinnamon and then transfer to a large bowl and add the rest of the tomato juice, orange juice, and olive oil.)
  3. Chill.
  4. Serve with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream if you like.

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Streamlined Sweet and Sour Soup
(makes six servings)

I love the idea of sweet and sour dishes, but I am almost always disappointed when I order them in a restaurant. The flavors I’m looking for — fruity, pungent, tangy — are often lost in a mix of heavily breaded shrimp or chicken and weighed down with too much oil.

I finally decided to take things into my own hands and reproduce all the things I like about those dishes without the dubious tastes and textures. After several “back to the old drawing board” moments (mostly involving mangos and limes), I came up with a soup that has all the flavors a person could want from a sweet and sour dish but without the heavy, oily feeling.

This soup takes less than five minutes to make and is equally delicious hot or cold. If you are really going for a low-fat dish, you can leave out the olive oil, but if a tablespoon or two of olive oil is within your dietary parameters I recommend using it because it adds body to the soup, especially if you are going to serve it cold. If you want to add substance and protein to the warm version of the soup, I suggest a cup of canned, cooked chickpeas that have been thoroughly rinsed.

You may find that this soup enters heavy rotation in your repertoire. Certain individuals have been known to drink it straight from the fridge on a hot day. It’s hard to beat something that’s sweet, sour, light, and quick.

46 ounces tomato juice
2 8 ounce cans diced pineapple (including the juices) or 2 cups of fresh or frozen chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 orange
10 leaves basil
10 leaves mint
garnish: extra mint leaves

  1. Pour 1 cup of tomato juice into a blender.
  2. Add the contents of two cans of diced pineapple or the 2 cups of fresh or frozen.
  3. Add the olive oil, cider vinegar, and honey.
  4. Juice a lemon and an orange and add the juice to the blender.
  5. Tear the stems off the ends of the basil and mint leaves. Add the leaves to the blender.
  6. Purée the contents of the blender.
  7. Pour the contents of the blender into a large bowl. Add the remaining tomato juice and blend thoroughly.
  8. Chill for at least one hour.
  9. Garnish with extra mint leaves when serving.

*I realize that unless one is living in someplace very tropical, pineapple isn’t really “fresh and local” and neither are oranges or lemons. Perhaps fuel prices will one day (soon?) return them to the category of unaffordable, exotic luxury from whence they came. For now, though, I am eating pineapple, just not in profusion.

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Also, if you live in the Boston area, here is some information about the upcoming Corn and Tomato Festival!

Date: Sat., 12 Aug 2006, 13:38:43 -0400

Make plans now to attend Verrill Farm’s annual Corn and Tomato Festival, being held next weekend, August 19th and 20th, from noon to 4 p.m. each day. The festival will feature tastings of over 30 varieties of heirloom and hybrid tomatoes and over eight varieties of sweet corn, all covered by the $6 admission fee. They’ll also have some samplings of corn and tomato dishes created in their farm-stand kitchen. Additionally, they’ll have a la carte food items for purchase, live music by Southern Rail, pony rides and hay rides (both for a small fee), and the Lil’ Folk Farm/Petting Farm.