Saturday, January 22, 2011

Transitions: from fries to soup, from grime to shine

Once upon a time, in the late summer, I bought an ugly old chip truck. It was cheap.
And it had a really cool grill.
Is that reason enough to buy a truck? My brother didn't think so... He looked toward the future, and saw the trouble of the aged vehicled-repairs, unknowns and many dollars. I looked and saw the cute grill, style, and vintage adorableness.

It ran, but barely, and had no brakes. I towed it to the mechanics. He thought it would be a bit to get it running, but doable. I still thought it was a good truck. See how ugly it is? We didn't even take pictures of the inside. It was too gross- they'd used lard. And waterproofed with roofing tar. I got a good deal.
This is where I started to pay for the good deal. And the mechanic's bill was twice what he'd thought, but boy, it was FUN to drive. I got the safety and the plates.

My bro returned to Saskatchewan to work on a contract, and I drove the van to my sisters', where my brother in law and I pried apart the lard welded fryers with crowbars and managed to sell a bunch of the fryer stuff. Small, small return...

Blasted it!  Nasty Paint, gone!
Pretty paint, ON! Ooh, that grill.

And then- my brother returns. We plot. We plan. He gets the flu for three weeks. I start a soup delivery business and get more credit. He chastises me for painting the truck too early, but agrees that really, it's cute. I stress a little. Our discovery of Ottawa stores specializing in obscure fastening items, retro truck parts and electrical items begins to grow. Now, in mid- January, we are experts.
We get into the garage.
It's filled with limos.
Brian, who rents it to us, has a limo company. He drove Gordie Howe around in the summer. We try not to get paint anywhere. We ripped everything out, insulated it, and made the roof work.

I'm small and fit in the truck. My brother is large and does not.

And we rebuild. The strapping and insulation is first so we can put more things on afterward.And we can be warm, even though we're in a garage. It's cold outside and inside.

I bring soup, and eat it there, and then work after doing other stuff all morning. Like making menu boards, talking to licensing people and managing the soupscriptions and banking.

 Shanger and Shawn putting up the wall. Shanger took most of the pictures and was the king of the detail work, like this very well taped dashboard- which is now shiny chrome.

Les and Shawn finishing the edges. Shanger took this through the gas heater vent space.

 Jer arrives and does some awesome safety bear McGyvering of the beautiful awning and shelving.

Shawn working through the plumbing. This was tricky- I mean, mobile industrial kitchen in the winter and all. It's tricky.
Installing the outside fill pipe....

 Les and I figuring out the plumbing details. Very pensive.

Scrubbing out the last bits of dust. Jer finishing the edges of the floor.

 Jer on the electrical... We thought we could keep the old stuff. We couldn't. Nothing. But it'll be simpler now to install the solar when the time comes, which is soon.
 Les taking care of where the hot water tank used to be. King of Bondo.

Bryan and Silvana brought their detailed eyes and steady hands to the taping. 

Frank adds the French...


Les orders soup... 
From me in the finished kitchen with the stove, fridge, and sink. Look at all that room!

 So happy! So grateful! So tired! So grateful!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Good Soup into Great, Good Truck into Great

Woah. It's been, like, a month since I last posted... eek!
The short of it?
  • The soupscription service has grown from 5 customers to 22 in six weeks.
  • The truck has gone from a lard encrusted fry machine to a shiny stainless steel kitchen with custom plumbing and gorgeous details (photos to come in a full on photo post of the construction!)
  • The truck is totally stylin'. It's ubercute. Wait for the reveal... I know you are :-)
  • My brother Les is a genius to have built/organized/styled up the truck.
  • I open soon, but have no actual date. I do think this fact alone may be responsible for the throbby vein in at the base of my skull.
  • Suppliers are all coming together/have come together, including Funny Duck Farms and an organic supplier who has organic Quebec leeks! Yippee!
  • I have great help on board with Clare, who is going to be working with me in the teeny space- and is patient with the opening date fiasco.
So, the truck is really being done with loads of love- my bro Les, his buddy Shanger, contractor Sean and my buddy Jer are, despite my get-'er-done desires, taking care of details I never even knew existed. It's taking time, but it's beautiful.  It's definitely gone from good to great- due to the attention and love (and line of credit).

This week saw two interviews- one with Ontario's Own, where Jodi Lastman and I talked about waste and how to avoid it, and the other with Shawna Wagman at Ottawa Magazine.  It's really interesting how keen people are on this idea. It seems it's time has come... Shawna asked me how to turn good soup into great, and after some thought, here's what I came up with.

You need to start with good stock. It's really key to have a solid base to work from- and preferably one that incorporates the flavours in your soup. For example, a basic vegetable stock (onions, carrots, celery, leeks and herbs in water with salt) can be augmented with lemongrass and some chili for a Thai soup, which increases the depth of flavour. Japanese dashi kombu adds a beautiful depth to vegetable stocks as well- and adds some of the umami flavour that can be missing from many vegetable broths.

Balancing your acid, salt and sweetness is always really key as well. Having wine, some type of vinegar, lime or lemon juice (or a combination!) to deglaze your pan and then to finish the soup with creates a layer of flavour that you just can't get any other way. A smidgen of sweetness complements many soups (but not all!).  I often use balsamic, honey, maple syrup or mirin (which is a Japanese rice based sweet vinegar) when I am finishing the seasoning of my soups. Enough salt is also key.  There's a fine line there- especially with so many people being conscious of their sodium intake.

The third part of a great soup is time- although this isn't true for all soups, it's certainly true for stocks. Time to simmer to allow the flavours to marry, time for everything to get together. Beef stock takes at least twelve hours to cook, then there's the skimming and the actual cooking of the soup- which can take another three or four hours as well.  Lots of time also allows you to put in lots of love- and that is always pretty key for making anything great!