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potato leek soup

I am going to ask a (probably) stupid question.  I want to make the
potato leek soup that someone posted in volume #260, Sept. 20/96 and it
calls for 4 leeks.  I have never in my life bought or cooked with leeks.
 Does 4 leeks mean 4 stalks of the leek or 4 whole leeks?  Please excuse
my ignorance.  Would plain onions change the taste?  I assume leeks have
a distinctive taste all their own.  Also, I would like to add that I
appreciate it when someone posts their opinions on recipes that have
been posted in the digest.  There have been many raves on this soup and
thus I am inclined to make it.  TIA, Tamara