Easy Bread Soup: Another Hearty Tuscan Winter Food How-To

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and 2015

Because, coming soon, PFNAR 2016!

Throwback Tuesday Post (TBTP): Every Tuesday, I re-post a past post that I think is relevant and that you’ll enjoy.

This post was originally published on February 12, 2014 and updated on February 26, 2019.

I am marveling a little and bragging a little when I say that, here in Munich, we have had mostly spring weather so far this winter, with temps in the 40s and 50s and many sunny days. Despite the local weather, I know my fellow Americans have had one hell of a harsh winter this year. With that in mind, I bring you a recipe for another Tuscan soup that I learned to make on my trip to Italy in December. May it help you stay warm and cozy.

The last recipe I posted was how to make ribollita, a traditional Tuscan winter soup. It’s a vegetarian’s dream, hearty and delicious. You may have noticed that it was thickened with day-old bread.

In this week’s post I bring you another traditional Tuscan winter soup just as hearty and delicious. And it’s even easier to make. Tuscan bread soup is not only thickened with day-old bread, but bread is the primary ingredient. Adding flavor are a little garlic, tomato puree and fresh basil.

Here’s a shot of my pal Cyndie with our chef-instructor Andrea preparing the soup at Fattoria di Corsignano, the agriturismo we stayed at:

And here is the bread-a-licious goodness cooking up on the induction element shortly thereafter:

I can attest to the staleness of the bread we used there. It was crusty Tuscan white bread to start with and was so hard that I found it difficult to cut into cubes with a chef’s knife. But I managed, amid flying crust shrapnel.

Finally, here is the finished product on my plate at dinner that evening:

From the above photo you can understand how thick the consistency of the finished soup is. In fact, I’ve been searching for another word besides ‘soup’ to describe it. ‘Paste’ came to mind, but it didn’t sound very appetizing.

At any rate, once we returned to Germany after our Tuscan trip, Cyndie and I tested out the recipe at the Komnata Chista Test Kitchens (my personal kitchen). Here is the result:

We got pretty close, as you can see. We used baguettes instead of Tuscan bread, but it seemed to serve. However, I couldn’t find any fresh basil for our version, so we used dried. The taste was almost the same, but I do recommend fresh basil if at all possible.

The soup is very filling and doesn’t take much for a serving. Fortunately it makes great leftovers. But cut this recipe in half for four people or less if you don’t want it to become a science experiment in the refrigerator later in the week.

This recipe is great for beginners and young people who are just learning how to cook. I hope you try this dish and let me know how you like it. Happy winter days!

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The Real German Munich Oktoberfest!

Do you have your copy of A Travel for Taste: Germany? It’s a collection of cultural stories and recipes from Germany, with an emphasis on traditional Bavarian cuisine. Even if you don’t cook, the stories are fascinating. Makes a great gift!

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Welcome to the first edition of the blog’s new feature: Throwback Tuesday Post (TBTP)!
Each week on Tuesday, I’ll re-post a past post that I think is relevant and that you’ll enjoy. Please leave a comment on this post and let me know what you think.
This post was originally published on December 8, 2011, and updated on September 25, 2018.
Throwback Tuesday Post from December 2011:
Because it’s that time of year, here’s the story of my first visit to the genuine Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany:
My husband and I ventured to Munich, Germany, for my first foray into the biggest beer party in the world: Oktoberfest!
Tuesday morning first thing we made our way to the Theresienwiese, or Theresa’s Field, where Oktoberfest is held. Tuesday morning just before 10am is one of the best times to go; it’s family day and a large part of the visitors are there to bring the children for the rides. That means there are fewer beer drinkers filling up the tents that early.
There is a subway stop that deposits you just outside the fest grounds:

I shot this guy in full Oktoberfest regalia on the escalator:

Here’s my hubby celebrating the fact he is at the Oktoberfest gate!
This was my very first visit to the real Oktoberfest. I’ve been to dozens of little local fests, but this one was all that plus steroids! Think of it as a giant carnival with two midways. One midway has the requisite roller coaster, ferris wheel, bumper cars and other rides along with snack stands:
The other midway, and the main attraction, is lined with giant beer tents radiating out on both sides. Fourteen major breweries build these “tents” each year for the occasion. The “tents” are mostly wooden framework with steel girders and tin roofs.
They had the wherewithal to locate the ferris wheel at the end of the beer midway so I could get this aerial shot of the beer tents. Each one of those giant, long buildings is a beer “tent.”
We had gotten there just before 10:00 a.m., which is opening time. I was able to visit most of the tents all the way down the line and get pretty good photographs inside each one before they started filling up and choking with people.
Here is a typical “tent.” That gazebo in the middle is for the band:
The Lowenbrau tent had a giant mechanical lion over the front door who drank from his beer stein and bellowed “Lowenbrau!” every few seconds! When I showed this photo to my friend Adi, he bellowed, “Lowenbrau!”
After strolling the grounds and getting oriented, we chose the Augustiner beer tent as our first quaff. Here’s our barmaid:
My German friends always told us that they didn’t wait for the foam to settle on the beers before serving them. The “right” way to do it is to let the foam settle then add more beer so the customer gets his money’s worth. Technically, the beer should reach the ring near the top of the glass. The last couple of inches is for the foam. However, things happen fast and furious in the Oktoberfest beer tents, so there’s no time for that sort of thing!
A family from the Basque region of Spain sat down beside us at the table. The coolest thing about Oktoberfest is that you gather best friends from all over the world! Whoever sits at your table with you is instantly your new “family.” These guys were no exception. Here’s our barmaid bringing us our brews:
And the most fun – Ein Prosit! You have to do this when they sing the toasting song!
Here’s a shot of our Oktoberfest “family.” My husband, the Spanish mom and dad, the son-in-law and the daughter. The parents didn’t speak English, but that didn’t stop us all from communicating! Notice the thumbs-up from dad – the mustache and eyebrows are real and that thumbs-up was for me!
Outside there is all manner of goings-on, such as beautifully decked out horses pulling giant wagons with giant beer barrels:
We moved on to the Spaten beer tent later. Here’s a shot of the “oompah” band there. Each tent has its own band that plays German drinking songs throughout the day. BTW, there is even an Oktoberfest TV channel during the celebration!
Our Spaten tent “family:”
Too soon we had drank all the beer we were about to drink for the day, and I had gotten all the photos I wanted from Munich’s famous fest. It was beginning to get very crowded and the weather had gotten hot, so we decided to flee back to the English Garden for the afternoon. So, it was time to bid Theresienwiese “Auf Wiedersehen!” I would highly recommend anyone to go to Oktoberfest. It’s just a big, jolly beer party with lots of Bavarian sights, sounds and food. Oh, and beer. Most of all beer.

I hope you enjoyed a trip to Oktoberfest with me. It was REALLY hard to choose only a few photos of it. It’s an immense and wonderful place – you should really go! I volunteer to meet you there!

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Guest post by Paula Showen: St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans

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This week I’m interrupting my “Denver suite” of posts to announce another first for A Travel for Taste: our very first guest blog! This week, in anticipation of Halloween, I’ve invited fellow photographer Paula Showen to share a blog post about her visit to a historical New Orleans cemetery a few years ago. So, without further ado, here’s Paula’s post! – Karren

We had never been to New Orleans. My husband and I had always wanted to go and thought that we might have waited a bit too long. On August 29th, 2005, Katrina hit and devastated the city, changing it forever. Over 80% of the city was flooded, causing many deaths and major destruction. We thought we’d never get to experience the excitement of New Orleans. Finally, after waiting four years after the disaster, on October 13th, 2009, we finally made it with hopes that the city had recovered.

After spending our first evening on Bourbon Street, we decided to spend the next morning in search of the nearby St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. It was only about a mile and a half from our hotel, so we set off by foot to find it. St Louis Cemetery No.1 opened in 1789, making it the oldest cemetery still in existence.

When we arrived, the gates were wide open and visitors were free to enter without a guide. There was no one watching over it, as we had expected. There was no fee to enter. It was very sad to see the shape of the historic cemetery. We had heard that it was not in the best of shape before Katrina, but had taken a turn for the worse in the aftermath of the storm. The cemetery is filled with above-ground graves, most left in shambles. Bricks were disheveled and parts of the graves were completely missing. We could not read most of the markers, many of the angelic statues were missing limbs and some were left headless.



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We just never expected to see this horrible damage still remaining after four years since the storm. I suppose, though, there have been other more pressing issues in the wake of Katrina. Even still, a shock, considering the history and the fact that this is the oldest and most famous cemetery in New Orleans!

We noted the different types of graves located in this cemetery. There are family tombs, which seemed to be the most common type.


The wall vaults were used primarily as a temporary resting place where the body would be placed until the family vault became available or until the period of mourning had passed. At that time the body could be moved to the family tomb. They were also used when no other vaults were available. During the yellow fever epidemic, where deaths reached thousands, wall vaults were the only source for burial.

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Society tombs are similar to family tombs and wall vaults combined. They house the bodies of people belonging to groups, organizations or religious sectors. For example, a society tomb may be used for fraternal organizations, police officers or military units.

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Since our visit, I researched to see if this cemetery had been restored. What I learned is that a group has existed since 1974, “Save Our Cemeteries”, for the purpose of preserving the historic landmarks. They have instituted new rules for St. Louis Cemetery No 1. Under no conditions may a person enter the area without a licensed tour guide. Hopefully, they have restored this site by now.

Click here to book tours and read more about Save Our Cemeteries.

— Guest blog post by Paula Showen

Thanks, Paula!

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St. Augustine, Florida, Walking Tour

This week I present some photos from my trip to St. Augustine on Easter weekend this year. I’ve already posted info about the boat tour my husband and I took, and about the old Spanish fortress there, Castillo de San Marcos. The photos this week are from strolling through this European-style city and from an open tram tour we made that weekend as well.

The photos are in no particular order, and I’ve included some interesting information where I’ve found it. Enjoy this “walking tour” of North America’s oldest European-established city!

Although St. Augustine was founded in 1565 by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés of Spain, what is now Florida was discovered much earlier (1513) by Ponce de León. He even named it Florida. In addition, he claimed to have discovered the fabled Fountain of Youth in the area. Therefore, you see ol’ Ponce all over St. Augustine.

ponce de leon city parkHe’s up on a pedestal in the above photo, standing in Ponce de Leon Circle next to the harbor on one side and the old open-air marketplace on the other. Everyone delights in pointing out that this statue is life sized – Ponce was just 4’11” tall!

Here he is again – or at least one of his conquistadorian brethren – in front of the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park just north of the city.

Fountain of Youth

There’s also a prominent statue of Menéndez in front of the City Hall, which also houses the Lightner Museum. The building was originally the Alcazar Hotel, built in the 1800s by Henry Flagler.ponce de leon floridaRandom shop window:

day of the dead musicians

The Crucial Coffee Cafe, a very interesting building:

Crucial Coffee St Augustine

The Cathedral Basilicia, home of the first Catholic diocese in North America, established 1565. It’s a stone’s throw from the life-sized statue of Ponce.

cathedral basilica st augustine

I like to get up early on Sundays and walk around where I’m visiting. I always get peaceful shots with no tourists in the way – here’s a lovely fountain:

st augustine cobblestone

George Street is the main drag for tourist shops, bars and restaurants. Here it is while the tourists are all still abed:

george st augustine

Can I park here?

trump hq st augustine

Here’s Aviles Street, named after the founder’s home town:

Aviles St Augustine

I loved seeing this street because I’d made a black-and-white photo of a painter on this street many years ago and handcolored it. I didn’t even remember what street the guy was on, but I recognized it immediately. Here’s my handcolored shot; he was standing just out the frame of the above photo on the left:

handcolored painter

As I recall, he was quite drunk, sipping a clear liquor (I hope) out of his turpentine jar and complaining about his wife’s having bought a new mini van that morning without his knowledge or consent. “$24,000!”

Something I didn’t know about St. Augustine is that it was an important location in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Here’s a house at 81 Bridge Street where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stayed just before leading a protest at the Monson Motor Lodge in 1964. The motel had a segregation policy and a segretated restaurant an pool area. The protesters were arrested for trespassing. The motel has since been torn down and a Hilton built in its place.

81 Bridge Freedom TrailIn fact, the city has a Freedom Trail of locations relevant to the Civil Rights movement there.

The Love Tree: a palm tree engulfed and growing up through an oak tree. It is said that lovers who kiss under the love trees will seal their love forever. There are supposedly seven such love trees around the city. We only saw this one, at the aptly named Love Tree Cafe, down the block from our BnB.love trees st augustine The very first permanent Ripley’s Believe it Or Not! “Odditorium” is in St. Auggie. We only saw this wax guy while buying tram tickets. Not sure I’d survive a walk through that place! Ripleys Believe it or not

Another tree character: The Senator, who lives in the circle-drive of a motel:

Senator Tree Augustine  Senator St AugustineSt. Augustine’s Distillery still produces alcoholic beverages, and it also gives tours and has a restaurant. My favorite part of the place was the old, industrial bathrooms next to the gift shop, which was in part of the old warehouse. Yeah, people were waiting on me to take this shot!

st augustine distillery  Check out the primary colors on the Villa Zorayda building:villa zorayda st augustine

It’s now a museum but was originally built in 1883 as a winter residence for Franklin Smith, a real Rennaisance man who, among many other things, founded the YMCA. The building is a 1/10th-scale copy of part of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. I didn’t get to go inside, but I will definitely do so next time I’m in town. It houses lots of unique antiquities, so I’m led to believe!

There you have it! A more-or-less random walking/riding tour of St. Augustine!

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