Here is the interesting history of vichyssoise and Vichy, France, after which this great soup is named.
Origins of Vichyssoise
Vichyssoise is generally accepted to have been created in America in 1917 by Louis Diat (1885-1957), who was the chef at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in New York City; he first worked at this same hotel in Long, Paris. 1
In an interview with the New Yorker in 1950, Diat relates how his inspiration for this famous soup came about: it grew out of his childhood memory of his mother’s and grandmother’s leek and potato soup, to which he and his brother added cold milk during the hot summer months. His desire was “to make something of the sort for the patrons of the Ritz”, who needed cool foods during the summertime, in those days prior to air conditioning. 2
Diat’s family made a hot version of potato and leek soup, a popular soup in France, which had its origins in Jules Gouffe’s Royal Cookery, 1869. A similar French-style cream of leek and potato soup also appeared in Escoffier’s Guide Culinaire, in 1903. Thus this French soup of leeks and potatoes had become representative of French cooking by Diat’s lifetime. The genius of our chef, however, improved on it, and today there are many versions-varying only slightly-of his cold American-French soup vichyssoise. 3
Diat called his creation after the name for the inhabitants of the spa town Vichy, which was close to his hometown Montmarault, France. (Both these cities are in the Allier department of Auvergne-Rhine-Alps, in the central part of this nation, in the historic province of Bourbonnais.) The town’s inhabitants are presently called Vichyssois, while the term Vichyste was used to define collaboration with the Vichy regime during World War II. 4
Background of Vichy
Vichy is best known for being the seat of the Nazi collaborationist government in France, during the second world war. Located in the unoccupied “Free Zone”, it was the de facto-existing in reality, even if not legally recognized-capital of the French State, headed by Marshal Philippe Petain. 5
It started out as the nominal government of France from 1940 to 1942. Then from 1942 to 1944, the Vichy regime collaborated with Nazi Germany, following the Nazi occupation of all of France, which started in 1942. The de facto authority of the Vichy regime ended with the Allied invasion of France in late 1944. The French Resistance-grassroots men and women representing every part of society-played a significant role in the downfall of this government and the Nazis. 6
Our Connection with WWII
My dad served in this war, in both India and Egypt. When I was growing up, the two of us were constantly sharing both fiction and non-fiction books on World War II. How we loved the courage, fortitude, and valor, of this time, which my father had known first-hand.
Our world today often appears to be void of such heroism, but it still exists vitally in God’s faithful remnant. These spiritual warriors are presently rising up, to perform his purposes in these end-times. We wait with joyful hope for the unfolding of mighty good, just like we saw in this tremendous victory, with the ending of the above war in 1945.
Julia Child on Vichyssoise
This soup always reminds me of the dedication and hope of these times; it, however, was inspired by Chef Diat in 1917, the year the first world war ended, nearly three decades prior to WWII.
Agreeing that it’s an American invention, Julia Child provides its receipt in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in which she states its basic heritage as being the French potage parmentier, defining the differing points as being the following: in vichyssoise, the leeks are cooked in stock-“white stock, chicken stock, or canned chicken broth”-instead of water, and whipping cream is also added. 7
My version has the option of using leeks, or onions, or a combination of both; onions give bite to the flavor, as does my addition of a high quality yogurt, along with the heavy whipping cream. Chilled spoons are recommended for the perfect touch.
Let this soup become your summer tradition to please guests and family!
- Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck, The Mastering of the Art of French Cooking, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf), Vol. 1, pp. 37-39.
Vichyssoise Yields: 5-6 servings. Total prep time: 50 min (plus 4 hr for chilling)/ active prep time: 25 min/ cooking time: 25 min.
3 tbsp oil (Avocado or coconut oil is best for quality; olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)
3 leeks or 2 med yellow onions, chopped (May use a combination of the two.)
1 qt broth (Bone broth is best; see Tortellini Soup, 2016/10/10.)
1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste (Himalayan, pink or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95/5 lb.)
2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and sliced (Organic is best.)
1/2 c heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 c plain yogurt (Either Nancy’s Honey Yogurt, Stoneyfield Organic Whole Milk Yogurt, or Sierra Nevada Graziers Grass-fed Plain Yogurt works best.)
1/2 tsp white pepper, or to taste
- Onions add a sharper flavor to the soup; use in place of, or in combination with leeks, as desired. If using leeks, prepare thus: cut off the root at the base and the green tops, reserving only the white and light green part of the stalk. Next slice in half length-wise, then run leeks under water to remove all the dirt; finally, chop into thin half-circle-slices.
Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium heat; when a small piece of leek/onion sizzles in it, add rest of leeks/onions and sweat (cook until translucent). See photo.
- Add broth and 1/2 teaspoon salt to leeks/onions; turn heat up to med/high.
- Peel and slice potatoes, placing them in pot of broth, as they are cut, so they don’t turn brown; see photo below.
- When broth comes to a boil, turn heat down to medium; cook until potatoes are very tender. When done, remove from heat.
Puree this mixture, using a blender-on-a-stick, also known as a smart stick (available reasonably at Bed, Bath, and Beyond). See blender-on-a-stick in photo at top of recipe. May also do this in batches in a food processor, VitaMix, or blender.
- Blend in cream and yogurt; add white pepper and 1 teaspoon salt.
- Chill covered for at least 4 hours; adjust seasonings.
- This is the best comfort food!