Celeriac Soup with Apple and Chestnut

Read­ing Paul Auster’s novel The Brook­lyn Fol­lies, I col­lided with a dis­turb­ing idea. Accord­ing to Auster’s thwarted char­ac­ter Tom, we’ve entered a new era, an era of the ‘post-past age.’ Tom elab­or­ates that the ‘post-past’ means ‘The now. And also the later. But no more dwell­ing on the then.’

Could that be true? Are we so dis­lo­cated from any­thing that’s gone before that we have no choice but to stare fix­edly ahead and wait for what’s com­ing? What kind of cynic do you think I am? Of course I don’t agree with that notion and neither, I sus­pect, do you. At this time of year you need only go to a child’s nativ­ity play, or flick through an old cook­ery book to find the recipe that your mother swore by for Christ­mas tur­key, or attend a Remem­brance Day ser­vice, or go to a Thanks­giv­ing party, as I did last week. And then you will know that the post-past is a fic­tion dreamed up by people who favour the smart remark above the truth.

And just in case you need a little more per­suad­ing, here is my recipe for celeriac and chest­nut soup, a divinely fra­grant con­coc­tion that I first ate when I was a child. As far as I’m con­cerned, the post-past is dead. Long live the pre-present.…

Celeriac Soup With Apple and Chestnut

Serves 6

2 table­spoons extra vir­gin olive oil

1 floury potato

1 medium onion

1 gar­lic clove

I whole celeriac, peeled and cut into chunks

I litre veget­able stock

100 ml double cream

100 ml full cream milk

100 g vacuum packed cooked chestnuts

2 Granny Smith apples

Truffle oil

Cut the potato, onion, 1 apple and celeriac into chunks and slice the gar­lic. Soften the onion gently in the olive oil for five minutes, and then add the potato, gar­lic, apple and celeriac. Don’t allow the veget­ables to brown. Sea­son and con­tinue to cook gently for another five minutes and then add the hot veget­able stock and sim­mer for twenty minutes. Puree with a stick blender before stir­ring in the cream and milk. Reheat the soup, but don’t let it boil. Adjust the season­ing. Break the chest­nuts into smallish pieces and saute briefly in a little olive oil. Cut the second apple into the finest juli­enne — (don’t peel the apple — the flash of green at one end is good). Serve the soup with a scat­ter­ing of chest­nuts, a sprink­ling of apple and a cir­cu­lar drizzle of truffle oil. Eat your soup like the Roman god Janus, facing back­wards and for­wards at the same time. And let’s have no more talk of the post-past.