Remembering Ethel with Her Danish Soup

Ethel Pochocki was a faithful correspondent to this column early on. She sent along good recipes and ideas and we even talked on the phone. One of the joys and privileges of writing a weekly column like Taste Buds is exactly that kind of friendly connection I’ve been blessed with over the years with lots of readers. So when word came that Ethel had passed away, I was genuinely sad. Then another reader and a neighbor of Ethel’s sent me in the mail, Holy Housewifery Cookbook, described as “The hilarious collection of 569 recipes with a text designed to make housewives giggle while they cook. A joy to read and use,” authored in 1968 by Ethel Marbach, later Pochoki.

Ethel was genuinely funny. In the head notes for a sausage dish, she wrote, “Very hearty and heartburny. When you smell this cooking, you feel you should be out chopping wood so you could come in and deserve it. I’d rather be out chopping wood than cooking it, but that is the way the kielbasa bounces.” The mother of eight, a gardener, cook, and writer for several publications, Ethel graduated from Katherine Gibbs School in New York, but wrote in her author bio, “You don’t know how tempted I am to write, ‘graduated from Meadowlark Reformatory for Delinquent Dieticians or something better than ‘former secretary for book, cloth manufacturers.’” What a lively spirit.

Ethel herself under the hair dryer.

One day this week I took a closer look at her soup chapter; with seventeen recipes to choose from, I was sure I would find inspiration. Explaining, “In case you are still nervous about attempting anything undirected,” Ethel offered soup recipes with quantities and instructions. But first she wrote, “Now is the time to clean out the refrigerator.” I am a girl after Ethel’s heart; I never actually follow a recipe for soup, and usually examine what I have at hand trying to imagine what would be a good combination with some kind of broth added.

So her Danish Soup caught my eye because it matched the local supply: a ham bone with a little meat still attached, potatoes, carrots, celery, cabbage. Ethel leaves the choice of seasonings to us from “pepper, pinch of herbs, salt, cinnamon.” I used some garlic. She thickened it with flour and added cream. Of course, I didn’t follow it to the letter. I thought my soup needed a little more meat, so added chourizo I’d made with venison. I left out the flour. Instead of cream, I tossed in a small collection I had of parmesan cheese rinds. Ethel would have approved.

I miss Ethel, but at least I have her cookbook. Here is her recipe for Danish Soup, but for heaven’s (and Ethel’s) sake don’t follow it exactly.

Danish Soup
Serves: 6-8
  • A hambone with some meat on it
  • 2 potatoes
  • Bunch of green onions with the tops on
  • 3 stalks of celery with tops
  • 2 cups chopped green cabbage
  • 2 carrots
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Your choice of herbs or seasonings
  1. Boil the hambone in about 2 quarts of water until the meat falls from it, at least one hour. Remove bone.
  2. Chop the vegetables but not too finely and add to the ham broth.
  3. Cook until they are tender, about 40 minutes.
  4. Pour a little cold water into the flour whisking until it is a smooth paste then add it to the soup.
  5. Bring the soup to a boil, add the cream and seasonings of your choice.
  6. Serve right away or reheat later for serving.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.