Experiment #16: Tomato Soup for Microwave Oven

Hoo boy, how about that [CURRENT EVENT]? 

We here at "Cooking with the Congressional Club" know you turn to us for guidance in these uncertain times. That’s why we’re pleased to share our plan for saving the world from COVID—

lol jk we’re just making bad MS paint art and blogging about ‘80s shelf-stable legislators cuisine until the sodium shrivels our bodies into postureless human prunes. Stay safe and snuggly in this dystopian hellscape, friends! And if you've got one of those Mad Max-style dune trucks, throw a 30 of Hamm’s in the back for us on your next raid. 

This week’s culinary anti-antidepressant comes to us courtesy of Representative Clarence “Bud” Brown, Jr. (R-OH), who served Ohio’s Seventh District from 1965–1983 until he absconded to run for Ohio Governor (he lost to Richard Celeste). 

Representative of Ohio / mayor of Jonestown 

Air Bud was a newspaperman and Navy veteran who filled the Congressional seat left by his father, Clarence Brown—because nothing says “functioning democracy” like patrilineal primogeniture!

Of the 22 bills Bud sponsored, over half were oil and natural gas related—though his effort to establish the Warren G. Harding National Historic site in Marion, OH is laudable. We understand his plans for the site featured a large, teapot-shaped dome. 

During Bud, Not Buddy’s tenure, he was also a proud member of the top-secret “Chowder and Marching Club,” a longstanding group of Republican power brokers who, TO THIS DAY, meet regularly to wear chef’s toques and steeple their fingers in sinister contemplation. We’re, uh. Not making this up. 

“We came here to do two things: march and eat chowder. And we’re all out of John Philip Sousa records.”

Founded in 1949 by none other than Gerald Ford and Richard Bartholomew Hornswoggle Nixon, the group originally coalesced around an assembly of young lawmakers opposed to a veterans’ pension bill, which they managed to defeat with the power of Hot Seafood Soups and Cold-Hearted Conservatism. 

The invitation-only cabal has met once a week since, and while tight-lipped chowdermarchers insist no legislation is spawned from their assemblage, recent member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) stated that “Sshhhhhh, first rule of Chowder and Marching is…”

She alluded to these Fight Club rules in a tweet, accompanied by a picture of her in branded Chowder and Marching garb. Discretion! 

The chowder connection seems deeply resonant to us given that Bud is the father of none other than CLANCY BROWN, a prolific film and TV actor who voiced Mr. Krabs in SpongeBob SquarePants.

The whole family seems a delight, once you get past their love for microwaved soups. Bud’s wife, Joyce Helen Eldridge, was an accomplished pianist and composer, which may explain why she had little patience for ordinary, geologically slow ovens with their LONG SIMMERING TIMES and CUMBERSOME FLAVOR DEVELOPMENT. 

Even the title of her contribution to the Congressional Club Cook Book, “Tomato Soup for Microwave Oven,” seems musical, like “Adagio for Strings.” In Joyce’s hands, the microwave was but an instrument, the soup a cream-sogged symphony.  

We can find very little other information on Joyce besides that she was once locked in a Russian Embassy with the publisher of the Highland County Press. We like to think that was where this recipe was born. 

Step 1. Raid nearby settlement for fresh vegetables
We traded three liters of hand sanitizer for these.

Joyce calls for two pounds of “Italian plum tomatoes,” halved and plopped in a three-quart bowl.

In case you’re reading this a few months in the future: “tomatoes” were a thin-skinned red fruit once used by Paul Newman to make savory sauces and condiments. 

We bought Romas, which were the only plum tomato we could find in the grocery store off-season. Honestly, this time of year, we’d have been better off using high-quality canned tomatoes.

But we’re not wasting our San Marzanos on microwave soup. 

Sheen level: Tiger blood

Step 2. Consume vegetables with reckless capitalist abandon 
Tag yourself.

Once your Romas have acclimated to their newer, leaner bodies, chop up an onion and a celery stock and toss ‘em on top. A nightmare-poix, if you will. 

We’re running low on fresh veggies over here, and using up an onion and a celery stalk for...this...was physically painful. We imagine it’s a bit like how Laura Ingalls Wilder felt when her sister, Mary, stole the precious orange from her Christmas stocking and hacked it up to make a gelatin mold. 

That was the plot of The Long Winter, right? It’s been a while since we read the series.

Once you’ve prayed a funeral mass over the vegetables and mentally made peace with the fact that you’ll have scurvy by Quarantine Day 20, make the soup.

Joyce says this soup “makes 6 servings,” which she thinks she can achieve by adding a whopping TWO CUPS of chicken broth. 


We’re very willing to suspend disbelief at this moment of our lives—it’s one of the few impulses keeping us sane—but only two cups of liquid for a soup was still setting off some major alarm bells.

“Maybe...the microwave...extracts more juice?” Liz suggested helplessly. Then Tom pretended to spill a little of his Hamm’s in the bowl by accident. 

Step 3: The Dankening

FLAVOR ALERT! WEE-OO WEE-OO! We got two whole spices over here! 

Joyce gives you the option of using either dried basil or oregano. We chose basil, because sometimes you gotta lean into the depression.

Dried basil: Formerly Fragrant. Legally Edible.™  

*disembodied Billy Mays voice* But wait! There’s more! 

The recipe also permits some “freshly cracked pepper.” Amount unspecified, so crack to your heart’s content.

Fun fact: medical marijuana has been legal since January 1 and mandatory since March 13. 

Once we mixed all this up with our filthy virus hands, it looked sort of soothing. Sure, the amount of broth seems better suited for a braise than a soup. But the glass bathtub of chubby tomato halves reminded Liz of this video of capybaras bopping around in a heated pool filled with yuzu. We cannot, of course, SHOW you this video, but if one were to Google “capybara yuzu bath,” one would most likely find it. 

We made you the next best thing:

Liz spent the last three months getting the fur shading just right.

Seriously. Tell us how much you love our li’l MS Paint capybara. Lie to us. Give him a name. We are emotionally prepared to handle zero criticism right now. 

Step 4. Microwave for...wait, how long? 
In the immortal words of Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffet: “It’s 87 o’clock somewhere.” 

If Joyce’s soup is a symphony, we have some concerns about the time signature. We have never microwaved anything as long as this soup—20 minutes!—without at least stopping and stirring.

We were a little concerned that that story of Joyce being locked in the Russian embassy ended with her breaking out like the Kool-Aid man by microwaving this soup on an exterior wall. 

But we needn’t have worried. After 20 minutes, the soup looked almost exactly like it did when we first put it in. The skins of a few of the tomatoes had split, and the bowl had a nice head of steam. We suspect it would still make a fine bath for capybaras.

Again I say to you: we can hear no criticism of this capybara and his bathtime opinions.

You’re going to want to grab some oven mitts for the next step, because this bowl is hotter than Bud after a chowder feast. Dump the whole cloggy concoction into a strainer set over a soup bowl, and let the basil-y steam open your pores.  

This step felt very Wuthering Heights. Maybe it was the tomato-perfumed mist pouring into the kitchen as if from some mystic moor. Maybe it's that lexicographer Susie Dent has suggested "the wuthering" as a description for...whatever's going on right now. 

A girl from Liz's high school read all of Wuthering Heights assuming Hareton Earnshaw was a talking horse. There's no joke, we just wanted you to know that. 

Step 5. Throw away the Good Parts

I bet you thought you were going to do something with those strained vegetables! Nope! Fortunately, we made you the handy diagram above to help you in sorting.

Hahaha, you would have looked SO FOOLISH, eating tomato soup with bits of actual TOMATOES in it. 

Look, we need two disclaimers here:
  1. The amount of liquid strained from those vegetables (hereafter, “squeezins’) is not nearly enough to serve two people, let alone six.
  2. This is less a soup than a bodyless tomato tea. 
This was the ghost of a soup. It was a euphemism. It was watery, with a smack of Hamm’s. 

We added heavy cream, per Joyce’s instructions (she suggests adding a WHOLE CUP, which would have at least stretched the servings, but: no). 

It tasted even less like tomato soup afterward. But it did taste a hell of a lot like cream.

“Serves six” 

We know what you’re thinking: why strain the squeezins’ from the soup at all? Why not just...blend the whole mess together and *then* strain it for #lumpz?

In normal times, we would refuse to tamper with a sacred recipe like this. We would gamely accept our lot in life and eat the soup as-is.

But these are desperate times.

And we didn’t make anything else for dinner.

And a couple’s gotta eat. 

Tomato Soup for Microwave Oven
By Mrs. Clarence (Joyce) Brown, Jr.
Adapted from the 1982 Congressional Club Cook Book

2 lbs Italian plum tomatoes or about 6 medium tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon basil or oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup yogurt, or sour cream, or heavy cream (optional)
2 cans Hamm’s beer

Cut the plum tomatoes in half, or cut larger tomatoes into wedges, to release the juice. Place in a 3-quart glass or ceramic casserole with the onion and celery. Add the chicken broth, splash of Hamm’s, tomato paste, and basil or oregano and season with black pepper. Cook uncovered on the highest setting for 20 minutes. Season with salt. Strain to remove the tomato skins and seeds. Garnish with spoonfuls of yogurt or sour cream or stir in whipping cream. Serve with remaining Hamm’s. It makes 6(?) servings and may be frozen. 


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