After being caught in a torrential downpour that had me trapped for hours in flash flooded South Houston, I recently had a hearty late night dinner at Taqueria del Sol. I figured at least the implied sunshine in the name of the restaurant would raise me from the funk. I ordered a bowl of the comforting caldo de res, or, basically beef soup. A good caldo is the product of long simmering of beef bones and other tough animal parts until the collagen dissolves into a flavorful broth. The meat itself is meltingly tender, and the vegetables cooked therein, large chunks of cabbage, chayote, carrots, potatoes, and corn still on the cob add to the healthful and hearty milieu. Served alongside a bit of salty Spanish rice, and hot tortillas, all it needed was a squeeze of fresh lime to complete the comforting anodyne against the dampness.
Then I was struck by the similarity of this dish to a classic French peasant fare: pot a feu. Also derived from simmering beef and vegetables, a pot a feu service is more elaborate, separating out the parts of the cooked broth into courses, and, of course, accompanying it with the more Francotypic bread, butter and wine.
A while back, Robb Walsh wrote about the possible descendant of then pot a feu as a by product of the French occupation of Vietnam, namely, the hearty and interactive soup pho. And so, perhaps what we have here in Houston are a pair of culinary cousins that exist in non-overlapping spheres. And maybe it is high time for some cross pollination.