Classic Minestrone

March 4th used to be Inauguration Day in the United States (changed to January 20th by the 20th amendment in 1933).

It was also my in-laws’ wedding anniversary. My mother-in-law, who could always tell a good joke, used to say “we marched forth on March 4th.”

But anyway, the other day, Gail Collins wrote one of her funny and terrific editorials in the NYTimes, mentioning, of all things, that on Inauguration Day, March 4, 1840, William Henry Harrison, the then oldest president ever elected, gave an Inaugural Address that lasted over 2 hours. It was raining. It was cold. And Harrison didn’t wear warm and protective clothing. He got pneumonia and died about a month later.

And so, Gail Collins continued, she has a great idea. Like President’s Day, (when for some reason it has become the custom to shop for cars), maybe on March 4th we could have something like “special Harrison Inauguration Memorial sales” events “in which all the warm winter clothing they are trying to clear off the shelves could be offered at stupendous savings. People could also give their loved ones special William Henry Harrison umbrellas, just to show they care. It would be great for the economy.”

I think that’s a wonderful idea myself and everyone should call his/her Congress-person right now and ask that person to sponsor a Bill to set aside a new holiday day for William Henry Harrison so we could all have time to shop for coats and things. Or at least call their local Chamber of Commerce and get them to get this going in the stores.

I also think we should mark the day as something like “Harrison Memorial National Warm Soup Day” and all eat a nice, hearty, warming and nourishing soup on this day.

Take this soup, for example — Minestrone. Who doesn’t love Minestrone? It’s so thick and full of stuff it’s like a whole meal and you can make it with meat or chicken stock or vegetarian with vegetable stock or water, serve it plain or with cheese. This soup and a good hunk of crusty Italian-style bread and butter or olive oil will make you feel warm, nourished and wonderful, whether it rains on March 4th or not.


3 tablespoons olive oil (or equal parts olive oil and butter)

1 medium onion, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, chopped

3 carrots, sliced 1/2-inch thick

2 all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces

3 stalks celery, sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 zucchini cut into bite-size pieces

1-1/2 cups frozen peas

1 cup frozen corn kernels

28 ounce can Italian tomatoes, drained and coarsely cut

8 cups vegetable, beef or chicken stock or water

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

15 ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup white rice or elbow macaroni

grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Heat the olive oil (and butter, if used) in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or until slightly softened. Add the garlic, carrots, potatoes, celery, zucchini, peas and corn and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes, stock, basil, oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the beans and rice and cook for about 15 minutes or until the rice is tender (if you use macaroni, cook for 8-10 minutes). Serve with grated Parmesan cheese. Makes 8 servings