Recipe for iced leek and potato soup with buttermilk

The leek has been a tried and tested assistant for a long time, especially in the soup kitchen. In the Middle Ages, it was believed to be a little more capable – and even today it is worth paying attention to vegetables.

The leek has the reputation of being a somewhat banal vegetable, as expressed in the expression

The leek has the reputation of being a somewhat banal vegetable, as expressed in the expression “stupid as leeks” or in the proverb: “Leek are leeks, wherever you plant them.”

Samuel Herzog

“Then make yourself a splendid evening,” grins the gaunt old man with the green shirt and ash-blond hair, who sits across from me in the S-Bahn. He keeps talking, but I can’t understand him because we’re rushing through a tunnel. He points several times to my shopping bag, from which a few stalks of leeks are sticking out. When we come to light again, I have to get out too. As I get up to squeeze all my stuff past the many people in the direction of the doors, I can just about hear half of his final sentence: «. . . or Your Highness come from leeks, for the leek was a symbol of excellence».

What childish nonsense, I think when I’m finally standing on the platform, he’s probably watched too many Monty Python films, there’s bound to be a king somewhere who’s holding a leek stalk instead of a scepter. But the matter doesn’t let me rest, so I open my dictionaries at home. Of course it comes Highness not from Leekbut from a medieval form of the word to shine. But to my astonishment I stumble across a few older sources that give leeks an illustrious position among vegetables. In the legends of the north, for example, the “leek that stands out above the grass” can be understood as “the image of the hero towering over others”. And in the “First Heroic Song of Helgi the Hundingstöter” it says: “The king returned home from the army / To make his son with the most exquisite leeks / The water of consecration effective.” According to various commentators, it seems to have been customary in certain parts of the north in the Middle Ages to carry a leek when giving names – as a kind of magic wand, as a transformer. I can understand that, because sometimes when I pick up a leek, I get the urge to do some nonsense with it, like waving it through the air like a sword, or directing an imaginary brass band through my kitchen. In the past, it was even believed here and there that leeks helped with prophecies or were useful against evil spirits. Elsewhere, however, it was feared that the good household spirits would be chased away with the vegetables: “Under the plaintive call: ‘Leek, leek! We are moving away and luck too’, they flee and with them all the blessings,” says the “Deutsche Götterlehre”.

The leek has not retained much of such importance into modern times, apart from serving as one of the national symbols of Wales. Today, leeks tend to have the reputation of being a very common, if not somewhat banal, vegetable, as expressed in the expression “stupid as leeks” or in the proverb: “Leek are leeks wherever you plant them. » This probably has something to do with the fact that leeks are one of the vegetables that are available all year round thanks to new breeds. In addition, it is cheap and almost never appears as a protagonist.

The leek was apparently already known in Sumerian times, in ancient Egypt it is said to have been a staple food, and the Roman Emperor Nero was such a fan of the stalks that he was nicknamed the porrophagus (“leek eater”).

Everything about the leek is edible and aromatic, the light part from the soil as well as the leaves green from daylight. When raw, the leek exudes a green, slightly sulphurous scent reminiscent of very mild onions. Steamed or fried, it develops a rich, bready and meaty aroma. I catch myself again and again putting leeks in many a casserole out of habit. But I actually like it best as a soloist, in larger pieces only lightly steamed or briefly tossed in butter, just sprinkled with a little salt – but with a sharp knife so that I can cut it into thin slices across the grain before eating it. It never ceases to amaze me with its full, ham sandwich-like aroma.

Some of the magic that the ancients attributed to the leek is perhaps best preserved in the realm of soup, which can also be regarded as a kind of magic potion. There are only a few broth recipes…

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