Sunday, November 9, 2014

Soup Stories: short-short pieces on a theme

As a child in Kasauli, the hill station where my Army physician father was posted, an evening without soup was unheard of. Our cook, who had served in many Anglo Indian homes, had his own ideas of what any soup should include. We alternated between his versions of mulligatawny, Scotch broth, and just a plain chicken or tomato soup, with crunchy croutons. He was a culinary magician, producing a fantastic-tasting concoction every night. Much as my mother tried to get him to reveal his soups' ingredients the curmudgeon would say "it is a secret, Memsahib, just enjoy, don’t ask.”
- Angelee Deodhar  

A harsh wind shakes the chestnut trees. Suddenly there is someone at the gate, holding a bunch of chrysanthemums. On this rainy November evening we share a warm dinner, blush, watch a game of shadows. Basil, ginger, coriander — through steamy soup, my questioning eyes: will there be a ring in the spoon?
- Anisoara Iordache

On Monday, my cupboards are bare, and pay day is not for a while. Suddenly, it is not so hard to imagine myself queuing at the local soup kitchen. I call my Aunty who makes pots of nourishing vegetable soup. She agrees to cook me a pot in exchange for a poem. When I arrive at her villa she serves me a bowl of steaming vegetable soup. I look for the chunks of beef and vegetables floating inside the bowl, and start to eat. When I finish, she lifts the pot, still half-full, into the front seat of my cart.  
- Anne Curran 

It's the 1950's. Sunday evening supper at boarding school. Homesickness time.The matron ladles out soup. Color-of-mud soup, thin, with unidentifiable "things" floating in it. I take a sip. The soup is lukewarm, tasteless. The sadness in my throat prevents me from asking for the salt. There is one piece of bread, an apple, a glass of water, for us each, taken in silence. The meal over, we rise and clear the table, go to evening prayers. Then upstairs to a cold dormitory where listening ears catch even the quietest crying.
- Antonia Matthew 

Bruno was an incredible cross, perhaps between a Doberman and a dachshund. He quickly endeared himself to all of us, but as the years passed the children paid less attention to him and he developed a habit of straying out of the house. Soon he was infected with a virus, and came close to death. He stopped eating and was hardly stirring. As a last ditch effort I poured chicken soup in his bowl and began feeding him with a spoon. Miraculously, he recovered. Bruno lived to the age of fourteen and his favourite chicken soup remained a staple of his diet.
- Arvinder Kaur  

Pungent vapors of fresh snipped thyme rise from my hands. I carry the twigs into the kitchen where the savory scent of celery, onions, garlic, carrots, green beans, and sweet peas permeate the room — steam rising from the kettle. Adding tomatoes, broth, chickpeas, cannellini beans, salt, pepper, a splash of tamari, and thyme into the soup pot, stirring — smelling — tasting, I notice the confetti of vegetables swirling around the spoon, recalling the early morning harvest, the months of garden labor. Gratitude. Bubble. Simmer. Ahh . . . soup that fuels the famished and soothes the soul. Every time. Best Vegetable Soup. Slurp. Mmm.
- Barbara Brazill

Sofia and her Aunt Sophie always made soup together. Aunt Sophie told Sophia stories of crossing the German border with her brothers and young cousins. It was cold, we had little to eat, I could stretch it by making soup. Soup always saves the day, Aunt Sophie said. She never used recipes, instead she would go to her pantry and pull out whatever she had. She would chop and simmer, the result was always delicious. If you know how to make soup, you will never be hungry. Every November on Aunt Sophie's birthday, Sofia makes soup. The memories are delicious.  
- Barbara Kane Lewis 

At the end of Second World War, a roux soup was a main course in our family. In an old pan, coated with fat from bacon rind, our mother browned some flour. Then she poured in boiling water and added some salt. A dozen open mouths, large hungry eyes, and outstretched arms holding plates waited for this. Roux soup  — three times a day. An added handful of chopped nettles converted the soup into a chowder. Including two scrambled eggs made it a meal fit for a holiday feast!
- Bozidar Skobic

The beef bones for soup had to have marrow. Covered with water, they simmered for hours in her WearEver pot. Soon, hard white lima beans were added, dried mushrooms, then pearl barley. In late afternoon, she called me into the narrow kitchen steamy with aromas from the thick, creamy soup.  She carefully gave me a secret snack, not letting go until I held it so it wouldn’t drop to the floor. Buttery, beefy marrow, spread thinly on a quarter piece of fresh Jewish rye. I didn’t know about cholesterol or animal rights, just my mother’s love, and it was delicious.
- Carol Miller  

This week I went to a small potluck dinner. I made a hearty soup of butternut squash, kale and chickpeas. The other guests brought sautéed butternut squash, kale salad and rice pilaf with chickpeas. It was all good, but aren’t there any other foods available in November?
- Deirdre Silverman

My demented mother, of Bohemian descent, often asked me to cook Prdelovu Polyvku for her: bum's soup. I had no idea what that was, and tried several varieties of creamy soups. They ended sadly. Her cousin explained — it was a water that remained after cooking homemade dumplings, with pepper and basil. I cooked the dumplings for my mother and served the soup. My grandchildren loved it but Mother said it tasted like it washed off the French hills! I called her cousin who told me that was my grandfather's description of clear chicken soup.
- Djurdja Vukelic Rozic 

I was in San Francisco's Chinatown when I  discovered an exotic dish: soup served in coconut shells. Later, I found this recipe for Shrimp in Coconut Broth. I cook it on holidays. Sprinkle cleaned shrimp with olive oil and red chili pepper. Chop bell pepper, ginger root, and garlic; fry in olive oil. Add a pinch of curry. Add chicken stock, coconut milk, chopped boiled potato, lemon grass. Add shrimp and cook a few minutes. Serve with chopped green onions, cilantro, lime and croutons.
- Elena Malec 

For those familiar with Myers-Briggs types, you know that the perfect example of an ENFP* is that you never ask them for the recipe for the soup. (It’s different every time.) I was born in Boston. I know clam chowder. Can’t we name that red tomato/vegetable soup from Manhattan something other than clam chowder?
*ENFP — Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perception
- Gale Owen

When he was in second grade my son wrote up this recipe for Stone Soup: meet browned we'll win onios, carrots, potatoes, beets, tomato juice, any vegetables, simmer all, add stone before serving! Every time I make any variety of soup I think of this.
- Grace Celeste

It was a bitter cold day in January. For dinner, I decided to serve chicken gumbo soup, French bread, a tossed salad and wine. After simmering for a few hours, the pot was overflowing and I decided to drain off some extra broth. A strainer was placed in the sink. I took hold of the pot, lost my grip, and the pot turned completely over. All the broth went down the drain. I stared into the sink and cried: "Oh, no, what have I done? My broth is gone." 
- Isabella Loverro  

No passing the Round House on the not-walk down Don Gaspar. No pause above the dried up river. No piñon roiling fire behind no ancient hearth to greet me. Wood, leather and brick are gone. There are no exposed beams in the ceiling of my soup. No tin dishes on which to place my bowl. I find the quality of my tortilla lacking. Peering into my half-hearted pot: only onion, corn, tinned green chile, stock, and cream. An ordinary potato. And a dash from the little remaining red chile powder Mrs. Trujillo placed into my palm before we left. 
- JenMarie Macdonald  

Start with chicken stock, fresh tomato, fresher zucchini, and freshest ginger root. Just the inside of the ginger, no rough edges. No onion, no garlic, but a splash of soy sauce. The kitchen fills with the aroma of Ginger Soup Supreme. It was a wonderful soup, very memorable, wish I could have some now. 
- Joan McNerney 

Our traditional Sunday dinner is soup and buns. Before the children had grown and left I used to take all the leftovers out of the fridge, dump them in the blender, add water if necessary, and whirr-r-r-r-r. The soup was always different, loved by adults, not by children. Nowadays, with just two at home, I make soup from scratch. I miss Blender Soup.
- Joanna M. Weston 

Autumn soup from Trumansburg, New York: cut butternut squash into 1.5 inch cubes; cut sweet potatoes into similar cubes; sprinkle ground ginger and ground cumin on the squash and potatoes; sauté cut up onions until golden, then add the potatoes and squash, plus a cup of water; cover and cook until tender but not mushy; add a touch of cream; blend for about 2 seconds.
- June Wolfman  

It was a family soup. My Maltese grandmother was the head of cabbage. She hardly cooked anymore but left her rocker for this. She insisted on a hambone. The soup was "minestra." No pasta needed. Simmer gold onions, olive oil, chunks of pumpkin, squash, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, parsley and thyme. Better the day after. My father was a fava, mother a cauliflower, the kids red beans. I was grated parmesan stirring it up at the end. If you're vegetarian don't tell Nana, just leave out the ham. Add a little more of me, sprinkled fresh in each bowl.
- Kath Abela Wilson

December 24, 1978. Babcia, in her daughter-in-law's kitchen, cooking the mushroom soup, instructing her daughter-in-law through the process as though her son's wife had never cooked before. The recipe had become simpler over the decades, now only water, flour, and three dried mushrooms. The mushrooms — from a Polish forest — were a gift from her cousin when he visited the U. S. many years before. The well-traveled box, containing a dwindling number of treasured mushrooms, was brought by Babcia from her apartment, just for this special evening. As they ate Babcia began telling stories of her childhood and the voyage to Ellis Island so long ago. 
- Lee Wagner 

When did I discover the indispensability of celeriac in soup? Cream of broccoli, potato leek, butternut squash, minestrone, whatever is found in the door of the fridge — it matters not. The foul-looking celeriac root goes far in making every soup more tasty. If one were to choose the vegetable on visual appeal alone it would never get touched. But once the knobby, hairy layers have been cut off, the inner flesh is firm, white, tender. Cubed and sautéed with yellow onion it will turn an average soup into something wonderful. 
- Marcy Little 

Soup is the original comfort food, the aromatic aphrodisiac that draws everyone into the kitchen. It can heal you of all that ails you. But when I'm doing the cooking, I keep adding more fresh vegetables, more tender beef or chicken, another bottle of expensive dark beer, plus whatever else begs to be included. So once again, I fail to make soup. When all is robustly simmered together, it inevitably becomes stew. Also four letters in length, but heavier in the spelling somehow, and definitely heartier in the eating. Delicious any way you spell it.
- Martha Blue Waters 

I cut one leek and sauté it as I was once a hippie. Cut carrots the way my first husband did with a Zen knife. Add parsnips because my daughter is grown and a turnip because my second husband works for a farmer’s market. Potatoes for my Yiddish speaking grandparents. A bullion cube because we once made soup in a writing class—surprisingly delicious—a French student had secretly slipped in bullion. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer. Yellow leaves on the apricot tree fall, frost on the windshield, I bring in the last basil plant, and you return to me.
- Miriam Sagan  

A towering mentor, ill several years, succumbs. His tiny selfless wife adjusts slowly.  She begins to shrink, mind much faster than body. I remember her having treated my grief thirty years earlier by wordless doorstep gifts of soup & bread. I start making soups. The sliver of brain now remaining to her says only, Oh! those soups!
- Nancy Gabriel 

It rained all day today. Out in the rain I got soaked to the bone. Came into the house and thought about a cup of tea. But, finally, it was a simple Vegetable Broth that warmed my soul. Focusing all my attention on the breath escaping my bowl, I see. It's very Zen.
- Pat Geyer

Vegetable beef soup like Mom’s. It’s part of me, it’s Ohio, it’s Irish. I usually make six quarts, a lot — it’s frugal, reliable and comforting, but not very exciting. But one January day, I thought I’d cool it on my snow-covered deck. Got the soup to the closed back door, set it down — where the pot blackened a perfect circle into my green carpet. Might have been a lesson there — lefty loosey, righty tighty, think twice, measure once, one of those. But I just bought a doormat to cover the charred imprint, happy to be a multi-tasker, the first in my crowd to burn her carpet making soup.
- Peggy Adams

Soup awaits us — hot as boiling blood through the veins. Steam envelops us, tempting us, luring us, preparing us for a perfect evening together. And hot lips taste, teasing, delight, reminiscent of the foamy sea salt in midsummer; of the passion and the heat of the fireplace when the wind blows out. Or of a stormy winter frost that freezes everything under the white and fluffy snow. Good soup, bringing the heat of the holidays into the house, where we are surrounded by loved ones. These delicious aromas wink at us, making us think about childhood.
- Petruta Ionescu  

Winter is really roaring on the day that I turn into soup. We sit in the car, but Joseph isn’t shivering. When we begin to drive, Joseph spills negativity. He says I’m too watery, that I don’t heat the wintery days. I have always found Joseph to be attractive before this event. Today his nose curls up like a ladle. His eyes are round and rude, like empty soup bowls. Joseph tells me I burn his tongue and throat. He says I could use more garlic. You’re too chunky, he says, if you were only smoother, just a bit smoother. 
- Raina Wellman  

Start with onions and garlic, for no evil can come of these two earth dwellers. Don't forget potatoes, celery, peppers, and carrots. Beans: black, kidney, garbanzo — yes, garbanzo beans — they have a stick-to-itiveness that has been known to sustain one through an afternoon of chores or, at the least, until the next meal. Season to taste with Cajun spices. Just the way foreplay is an essential ingredient to a lovemaking session, the aroma of soup permeating the house will prepare your mind, body, and spirit for a truly heart-warming meal . . . with sharing.
- Rob Sullivan

My Saturday chicken gizzard soup? The family loved it. I would cut the gizzards into small pieces, a few onions, some rice and spices and 2 cans of 16 ounce beer. Cooked until super tender, you have to because gizzards are as hard as cement. One weekend I cooked the soup at home and we took the kettle on our camping trip, keeping the soup in the car with open windows. Well, soon there were 5 raccoons stretched against the car windows, heads held high, sniffing. It turns out they loved my soup too!
- Robert Henry Poulin 

We skipped school and drove across the river to Woodstock: Kate, Jackie, and I, still fast friends in 1969. We drove into town and parked. We walked around, wandering into boutiques, art galleries, head shops. The sun came out and the clouds went away. Kate took off her shoes. And then we were suddenly very hungry. We found a little cafe with a sign in the window — "soup of the day: split pea." We had enough money for 2 bowls. We shared and giggled as we ate.
- Sara Robbins

Years ago when I worked at Farmers Market we decided to make stone soup to keep warm and celebrate the season ending. We suspended two pots over a fire and asked for contributions. There was a great variety of fresh vegetables and one pot got a chicken, too. All the vendors came and got soup. Of course not everyone makes edible things — one person who wanted to contribute offered me a pair of socks. I tried to decline but she insisted. I suppose it's not far off, soup and socks are both things that keep you warm.
- Scott McCasland-Bodenstein

We entered the room together. I was hungry. "There is no light here," I said. "I have no bread," she said. We ate soup made of darkness.
- S.Eta Grubesic 

Dusk falls lightly this November evening. I add more chopped carrots, onions to the simmering beef brew as he drives the last leg home. A familiar ritual, but I still hold my breath. I recall a fall night, our first date, carefree and shiny; his jacket smelled of wood smoke, my mascara was a tad too heavy. A short drive to the local diner. We slid into a small booth, both ordered chili — how it rouged ready lips. Bright headlights sweep the bay window's corner, the screen door's latch clicks, that smile. And he's home; yes, he's home.
- Theresa A. Cancro

Trudging up the stairs, the landing light flickers the same distress signal. Closing the door, the latch clicks wearily. I check the fridge, then the cupboards, no sign of last night's curry, enjoyed while watching some documentary about the war again. On the shelf, a lonely tin of lentil soup, ignored for good reason. I can hardly be bothered to open it, but the rusting tin opener does its work. Ping, shouts the microwave. Another single man's feast with hardened bread ready. It's been three years since the divorce. I hate lentil soup.  
- Tim Gardiner 

As the soup cools off the vapors take me back to my childhood and I can see my granny sitting in the kitchen with me. The flash pot on the stove fizzes, telling stories in a language I can only feel. There is a sense of coziness and security. My granny holds a book in her knotted hands. I have just started reading and peering at the cover of the book I am able to make out the title: Chicken Soup for the Soul. "What is a soul, Granny?" I ask her.
- Vessislava Savova 

Borscht, made with beets the color of wine, with sour cream, potato, and a hard boiled egg. Hot in the winter, cold in the summer, sweet as candy with  an edge. Curried split pea soup, green as grass, with carrots and sweet potatoes diced up small. Spice up your insides, spice up your day, warm up November as the days get short. Matzoh ball soup, chicken noodle soup, knedeleh, dumplings fill a Jewish hunger, fill a tradition, fill a deep need. Yesterday my mother would have been 101 years old.
- Yvonne Fisher 

My father loved his mother's cooking, especially her kreplach soup — flour-ball dumplings swimming around in yellow broth, with chunks of schmaltz (chicken fat) floating here and there. My mother was less impressed. "They're like lethal weapons," she'd say. "If you threw your mother's kreplach at someone's head you'd knock them out. Poof. They're dead." This conversation, always the same, before we head out the door and make our way around the corner for yet another fraught holiday dinner.
- Zee Zahava

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