Today my new book, “Eternity Soup: Inside the Quest to End Aging,” was published, and I found myself digging around in a file box full of the origins of this book: my trip to Padua four years ago, when I visited the historic home of Alvise Cornaro (above), the Renaissance humanist who first proposed caloric restriction to increase lifespan. In 1552, Cornaro rendered his tale in a book called “La Vita Sobria.” In it he repeatedly referred to his favorite food, a soup known as panatella, which is usually made with a clear broth, small bread, and, sometimes, an egg. Almost 400 years later, such a soup fits perfectly into the classic caloric restrictor’s regiment: it is high-nutrient, low calorie, low sugar, and high profile. Yet it is also a perfect soup for a modern world full of the high-calorie high-sugar foods that have wrought disaster: the twin scourges of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Cornaro’s Broth is the perfect antidote. With a topping of just a tad of olive oil and parmesan, it is also delicious.
Here I render several versions, which I have channeled through the voice of the Great Cornaro:
Eternity Soup One: Cornaro’s Broth
Have your cook slay and pluck a young capon; alternately, attend to your local market and buy one. Plunge the cleaned bird into a large pot of boiling water. Skim the resultant foam, then lower the heat and allow it to simmer for four hours. Remove the bird, cool and sieve the broth.
Have your baker make a small loaf of whole wheat bread; alternately, attend to your local market and purchase one. Pull it apart, allow it to dry a bit, and then put small bits of bread into the broth. Return to a vigorous boil for 5 minutes. Ladle the soup into a bowl. Add one tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with parmesan. Eat, with one glass red or white wine.
Eternity Soup Two: The Frenchman’s Broth
Having routed the army of King Francis I near the fraternal city of Pavia, it is rumored that a family of peasants in that gentle land gave succor to that King for two weeks, nourishing him with a garlic broth topped with a fatty toast and a poached egg. Deeming this soup Zuppa di Pavia, I have stripped it of its insipid Gallic fattiness and render preparations for such here.
Direct your cook to harvest and peel 15 cloves of fresh garlic. In a medium pan of water, boil these in a lively fashion for one hour. Direct your baker to slice, not too thickly, some fresh wheat bread. Scorch it in a stone forno or in another pan. Obtain a fresh egg, and crack its contents into the boiling broth and poach, one minute. Pour broth into a bowl, set the tostato on its surface, and then the poached egg. To flavor, add one tablespoon olive oil and some parsley, or, perhaps to honor that King, some… chervil. Eat, with a Venetian white. Spank a French girl.
Eternity Soup Three: The Sard’s Zuppa
Being informed of the remarkable longevity of those rough men of Sardinia, I took to appraising their diet, and discover that their broths approximate mine, although with the appearance of a strange fruit from the New World known as the tomato. I render it nearly palatable here.
Instruct your kitchen gardener to obtain seeds for said pomodoro from one of the skulking Spaniards who leer about near the port, and then plant, wait for 70 days, and harvest the fruit when it is red. Alternately, purchase a small weight of them from the Trader Joe. Peel, slice, and place, along with a clove of garlic, in a medium pan of water and boil for one hour. Now mash this mixture well and sieve.
Direct your baker to cook a large, wheat flatbread, or consult, again, the Trader. Pull shards of this orb apart, place in the broth with five stamens of saffron, and boil five minutes. Crack one egg per person and poach. Serve broth, softened flatbread, and egg, topped with one tablespoon olive oil and grated Sardinian cheese. Eat with one small glass Mirto, a rousing Sard liquor made from myrtle.
Eternity Soup Four: German Magic Suppe
The Germans, wanting their nose in everyone’s soup, have finally invented one apropos of their mechanical sensibilities. It is called a bouillon cube. I have to report that it suffices, in haste, for my divine broth.
Take one cube and, with a fire under the pan, smash it with a wooden spoon, slowly adding two cups of water. Stir. Instruct the cook to toast one piece of good Italian country bread. Poach one egg in the mechanical “broth.” Assemble the soup. Flavor with one tablespoon olive oil and, perhaps, a sprinkle of paprika. Eat with a glass of Liebfraumilch.
Eternity Soup Five: a la Virtu
Considering that so many are randy for the alleged properties of greens, I made up a broth to accommodate their inclination. That it is French in origin is simply something one must tolerate.
Have your gardener pick a trug full of young dandelions, and then clean them well. You may also obtain bitter greens in the form of endive or mustard at the market. Run a pot half full of water and set to a boil. Plunge in the greens, along with 5 garlic cloves. Boil for 40 minutes. Drain through a sieve, reserving the greens and the broth separately. Now poach several quail eggs, or one from a chicken. Toast a piece of wheat bread. Top the brodo with the toast and the egg, and season with one tablespoon olive oil and some of the reserved greens, well-minced. Eat with a small glass of pastis. Kiss the gardener’s daughter.
From: Eternity Soup: Inside the Quest to End Aging (Harmony/Random Jan 26 2010)