This was a piece I wrote last year as part of a writing class. I revisited it and thought it was appropriate for this fall season, when we all need warmth and nourishment.
Eating With Our Souls
Most cooks’ go-to meals consist of grilled cheese, quesadillas, breakfast for dinner, maybe pasta or a nice rice stir-fry.
But mine, vegetable stock allowing, is always soup. One needs at least 2 hours to allow for ingredient collection, preparation, combination, simmering, and eating. You must also allow for the collection of people, preparation of conversation, combination of different ideas into the pot of the universe, simmering and marinating of quality time spent with fellow cook friends, and eating of good food in the company, conversation, and laughter of others.
One cold, rainy night in January, a couple friends and I gathered with an assortment of ingredients to make dinner. The schmorgisboard of carrots, onions, beans, pasta, broccoli, tomato, orzo, garlic, and spices, combined with the evening empty in front of us and rain sleeting steadily outdoors called for a steaming, bubbling pot of soup to be formed.
We started by placing a small l daub of olive oil into the bottom of the pot, letting it quiver and simmer on the heat. We added slices of translucent onions and chunks of sticky, spicy, sweet garlic. They slowly heated themselves in the oil, filling the room with a mouthwatering scent. Next we poured the container of vegetable stock into the black coated pot. Its cloudy, nondescript color was obstructed by a savory, mouthwatering, pungent smell of derived vegetables and spices. Next, we turned on the burner and watched until tiny bubbles erupted at the surface, slowly turning into bigger ones. At this point we added bright orange carrots, diced into small round pieces. They plopped into the liquid mixture with distinct but subtle “plops” which emitted small splashes of broth into the air and a few drops onto my shirt. The next addition was a colorful combination of bright green broccoli, stop sign-red peppers, and light brown, round garbanzo beans complete with opaque, slimy shell.
The ingredients slowly cooked, emitting occasional spits of broth or burps of air bubbles rising from the heated bottom. Last, we poured in a few handfuls of dried orzo and its brother penne, tomato sauce, a spoonful of deeply earthy basil pesto, and a dash of creamy milk which turned the pot one shade lighter as it clouded and meandered through and around the vegetables. We turned our backs, intent on en engrossing conversation concerning the progression of our lives and the future of our friendships…or something like that.
After some time, we glanced back at the bubbling pot, shocked to see that the liquid in the pot had all but diminished and the steam rising from the pot gave itself away as the culprit. We immediately jumped up, with bowls and ladle in hand.
With a wet squelch!, we ladeled out the first scoop of dinner out into our bowls, now more like a multi-textural and highly melded stew than a soup. But the steam that rose slowly from the bowls and wound its way into the caverns of our nostrils was tantalizing. The nerves in our brains triggered the saliva glands to work in over-drive. We swallowed spoonfuls of the stew/soup, letting it burn our tongues and throats as we greedily gulped it down and let id slide down our esophaguses.
We filled our bellies and then some. As the bowls emptied, leaving only a small puddle of liquid and indistinguishable pieces of vegetable, we leaned back in our chairs, stretching our expanded stomachs. We smiled at each other and all sighed, content. Closing my eyes, I realized bliss. Food, conversation, care, friendship, simmering on a stove, absorbed into the pores of our bodies.