Origin: Basque Country
The mix of leeks and potatoes has been around, at least in Spain for more than 200 years. In fact there is a record of a similar soup to Vichyssoise from a cookery book published by the French chef Jules Gouffé in 1869, the difference being that this soup was served hot. Vichyssoise is a version of this, though much more refined. Unlike many Spanish dishes, it has been served in the best restaurants since the beginning, however the origins of this delicious and smooth vegetable cream is a little uncertain and is still cause for debate.
According to one version this rather fancy leek and potato soup was invented in 1942 by a French chef, Louis Diat, who worked in the Ritz Hotel in New York, apparently inspired on a dish from his region, Vichy. This same theory says that when the soup first made it onto the menu it was known as 'crème vichyssoise glacée' (Frozen Vichyssoise Cream). However when the menu was translated from French to English, there was no similar soup in English and so Diat decided to use the name of the town of Vichy, a place close to his hometown of Montmarault in France.
The other theory says that it was a Basque chef native of Bermeo, a coast region of the Basque Country near Bilbao, who worked for the Spanish ambassador in the Vichy Government.
This Basque chef, Sr. Corcuera, was a fan of porrusalda, a dish made with the same ingredients and as well as cod. However Corcuera believed this Basque dish to be too unrefined and unsophisticated to serve to the Spanish Embassy's guest, so he modified it. He got rid of the cod and turned the broth into a soft vegetable cream, enriched with milk cream.
When Vichy was occupied, the Spanish ambassador returned to Spain and brought his cook with him. Corcuera then migrated to the US, where he was employed in the New York Ritz and that's when his cream became popular and known as Vichyssoise.
At least both versions agree that the creation of Vichyssoise happened around the 1940's. There a few more versions, but they have less credibility than the two contending ones we have narrated, and some of them claim that the soup was created perhaps much earlier than that. Another thing that seems to be clear is that the dish is somehow related to the French region of Vichy. Whatever the dish's history, the fact remains that this soup has become popular throughout the world and is one you should definitely try.
Be that as it may, Vichyssoise is a creamy delight, which uses common and easy to find ingredients and it's also very easy to make. This means that it is a great option for those people who want to enjoy a bit of Spanish gastronomy, albeit on a tight budget.
Be sure to try some Vichyssoise, especially if you are in Spain during the long hot summer!
Ingredients (for 4 portions):