Soup is the true melting pot of all good things to eat.
Credit: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Soup is one of the best ways to introduce people to the genius and chemistry―what some say is the magic―of cooking. Liquids meet solids, interact ecstatically, and vow never to part again.

Even though it's a type of cooking as basic as it is classic, and uses techniques such as caramelizing, deglazing, and thickening that can be applied to many other kinds of dishes, making soup isn't just a matter of tossing a few ingredients into a pot of hot water. Making soup teaches you how to think about the compatibility of ingredients, the roles of assembly and cooking times, and the blending of techniques-but without overwhelming or intimidating. Once you've learned to make soup, you're well on the way to many other kinds of cooking, and you'll feel confident in tackling anything.

In this class, for example, you'll start most of the recipes with a very basic technique: sautéing. You'll heat and stir a combination of vegetables, herbs, and spices in a small amount of fat―butter or oil (or bacon drippings for a salty, smoky flavor). Then you'll let the ingredients slowly turn brown―to release a rich, nutty taste. Whoops! You just learned how to caramelize, too. Then you'll pour in some liquid. Finally―you might think of this as the cooking equivalent of the layered look―you'll add the components that need the longest time to cook, such as beans, rice, or potatoes. Go read a book, walk the dog, or shovel some snow while the stove does the rest of the work.

When it's done, and you've had that first steaming bowl (cook's privilege), you might not even think you need your overcoat for outdoors anymore. But put it on anyway. Mom would want you to.

Freezing Tips
All these soups will freeze well for up to two months. Pour into an airtight container, leaving enough room for expansion (usually an inch or two at the top). To reheat, thaw completely in the refrigerator; then place contents in a saucepan over low heat, adding some liquid if necessary.