When I wrote fiction as a kid, my characters lived idealized versions of my own life. I must have been interested in food as long as I can remember, for the characters in my stories always ate my favorite foods, starting their meals with sauce chicken and brown-butter noodles and ending with the dish in the photo above — strawberry bread soup.
Strawberry bread soup is a simple concoction made of slivered fresh strawberries (local only — any other strawberries are imposters), cubed bread, sugar, and milk. My mother used to measure the farm-fresh milk out in quart canning jars and served the soup in a large bowl as a dessert for our family of six. I loved this soup for the unusually sweetened milk, the milk-soaked bread, and tangy bite of the fruit.
I honestly thought everyone in the world dunked stuff in milk and called it soup (kind of like I thought everyone ate cottage cheese with apple butter) until I found this dish to be a subject of much teasing. However, a few weeks ago, I found a recipe for “Cold Bread Soup” in my cookbook From Amish and Mennonite Kitchens (next to “Coffee Soup”), along with a nearby note that reads: “These recipes probably came about during the Depression. But I still get hungry for a bowl of Coffee or Cold Bread Soup at breakfast or lunch!”
So bread soup — just another sign of the Mennonite’s incredibly thrifty background.
I felt incredibly vindicated.
Both recipes follow.
Cold Bread Soup
Cut bread into chunks or cues. Sugar to taste and pour cold milk over bread and sugar. Huckleberries, cherries, or peaches in season can be added. Serve in large soup bowl.
Break 1 piece of bread into a cup. Fill cup with hot coffee: add sugar and cream to taste.
— From Amish and Mennonite Kitchens by Phillis Pellman Good and Rachel Thomas Pellman.