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Mary Jo from Madrid writes, "This is truly an amazing soup. I also know many older people who had it every night for dinner, and my father-in-law loved it, even though he always made the same joke: 'Â ¿Con un huevo dentro? Â ¡Que incomodo!' (Huevo is also the Spanish for testicle). Anyway, my comments on the soup are that I make it almost exactly as Anna does, although I add ground cumin along with the paprika. If you are feeling rich, some cubed ham at this stage is also a fabulous addition. And I have tried a version with clams in, also very nice. A thing to remember is that this soup was invented out of poverty. Accordingly, the bread usually used is left-overs from the previous day or even earlier. Spanish stick bread goes hard from one day to the next, round loaves last a bit longer and have a nicer open texture. Either can be cubed to make this soup. Excellent recovery food after a cold or a night out!"

Spanish Garlic Soup

This hot Spanish soup seems especially filling for 4 people when you know the story behind it, told by American philosopher George Santayana about his father and his heritage.
"The Spanish dignity in humility was most marked in my father. He lived when necessary and almost by preference like the poor, without the least comfort, variety, or entertainment. He was bred in poverty, not the standard poverty, so to speak, of the hereditary working classes, but in the cramped genteel poverty of those who find themselves poorer than they were, or than they have to seem. He was one of twelve children, imposing the strictest economy in the household of a minor official, with insecure tenure of office, such as his father was. For supper they had each a bowl of garlic soup--something that my father loved in his old age, and that I also liked, especially if I might break a raw egg into it, as those twelve children were certainly never allowed to do." --George Santayana, Persons & Places: The Background of My Life
A second recipe follows, contributed by Anna Trombley in Olympia, Washington. By contrast to the lean fare of Santayana's family, hers is a thing of beauty, with toasted chunks of garlicky bread lightened in a paprika-red broth and set off by a poached egg that adds richness and textural contrast. Anna--who plays and dances with a Samba percussion group and who generally approaches life with artistic zest--says, it ain't pretty, but it hits the spot and warms the heart, especially on cold, dark, windy Pacific Northwest nights." See also the sidebar commentary of Mary Jo in Madrid. And then serve hot to 4 people as a main course.

Santayana's soup:

  • 2 heads garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cups hot water
  • salt to taste
  • thin little slices of french bread
  • Optional: 4 eggs and 4 slices of cheese "cut so thin that the children would hold it up to the light, to admire its transparency, and wink at one another through the frequent round holes"
Fry the garlic cloves in olive oil in a medium saucepan until crisp. Remove the larger pieces of garlic. Add hot water, thin slices of bread, and a little salt. Ladle into 4 bowls. If you are feeling rich, break a raw egg into each bowl. Serve, as you can, with more bread and cheese.

Anna's soup:

  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cups good bread (a hearty 7-grain is good, also French or sourdough), roughly diced and food processed into uneven pieces no bigger than ½-inch square
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 whole head garlic, peeled and minced
  • salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 4 eggs
Heat the stock in a large saucepan and keep ready. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil, then toss in the bread crumbs and stil until browned. Stir in the paprika and garlic, and saute a little longer, until the garlic aroma is released. Scrape into the simmering stock, washing out the pan with stock to get every bit of flavor. Simmer for 20 minutes.

When ready to serve, salt to taste, bring to a medium simmer, and break the eggs into the soup at the point you can see bubbles break the surface. Let poach until done, then ladle into soup bowls and serve extra bread on the side. I used flattish black pottery bowls and thought it one of the most appetizing soups I'd ever seen. Anna says, "good reheated, with more eggs thrown in."