Happy fall, fellow experimenters!
The equinox has come and gone, and there’s a bite in the air that wasn’t there a week ago. All around me the trees are starting to change color, and smoke is rising from chimneys.
I’m a summer-lovin’ woman; a sunshine aficionado, a daylight dancer, and the arrival of fall has not always been something I’ve celebrated. Generally I’ve greeted the shortening days and cooler nights with apprehension, dismay, and much protesting. In my mind, fall = winter = Seasonal Affective Disorder.
But this year, I’m doing things differently. Perhaps it’s my commitment to gratitude, that is enabling me to see the beauty of fall. Perhaps it’s having learned to live more in the now – understanding that fall = fall, and not jumping ahead to winter. Perhaps it’s feeling better equipped to handle the darkness this year…I’m all stocked up on St. John’s Wort, my full-spectrum bulb is already in the lamp, waiting to be needed, and I’m doing research to find the perfect B-vitamin complex for this year.
And perhaps, just perhaps, it’s that my soup pot is currently sitting on my stove, with a rich veggie soup simmering away.
I believe in the power of soup. I think it is full of magic, full of metaphor, full of simple yet profound life lessons. Making soup feeds my soul; it regulates my system. Going through the familiar motions both relaxes and inspires me, much in the way a meditation or mantra practice does.
There’s so much that goes into soup. I could probably spend months blogging about it and still have things to say, so for today I’ll stick to just 3 basic Soup Truths:
1. Soup takes Time. It’s very easy to throw a bunch of ingredients in a pot, heat them up, and call it soup. And it might even be tasty, and it might even be nourishing. But it will be missing the fullness of a slow soup. There’s a richness that comes when you allow the flavors enough time to really meld; to forget they were ever separate. We live in a fast-paced world, and many of us run through our days at break-neck speeds. Soup is a reminder that some things need slowness…that to develop and appreciate the complex and subtle nuances of what it is to be human, we need to cultivate patience & to make room for the idea of delayed gratification.
2. Soup is a Balancing Act. No matter what kind of soup one is making, it will be a conglomeration of tastes. In a vegetable soup, it might be the sweetness of a sweet potato, the earthiness of a parsnip, the bitterness of kale, and the richness of cooking sherry, all brightened with a dash of salt. In a Thai soup, the sweetness comes from coconut milk, the earthiness from mushrooms, the salt from fish sauce, brightness from lime juice, and spiciness from curry paste. All soups are a balancing act of flavors. Too much of one throws the whole thing out of whack, and bringing it back into balance is a whole process of tasting and adjusting. This, too, is a metaphor for life. Work, play, friendship, passion, sadness, joy, challenge, ease…every day is a new soup pot; every moment a new ingredient, a new choice that affects the overall balance of things. And if what I add in this moment throws the balance off, well, lucky me, I have the next moment to taste & adjust.
3. Soup Evolves. I have a basic soup formula – start with aromatics, cooked slowly over low heat; add meats if using; add spices & thickeners. Turn the heat up briefly and deglaze. Add broth and veggies & reduce the heat again. Simmer until nearly done. Add finishers. Put soup in bowls & garnish. The magical thing, though, is that using this same formula over and over produces different soup every time. I can’t seem to bring myself to make exactly the same soup twice. Even if the last pot of soup was perfection itself, I want to do something differently for the next pot. This is also how I live my life. The basic formula doesn’t really change: eat, sleep, work, play, spend time with others, spend time alone. But over time, it’s transformed from one life into another, just by changing one or two things at a time. If I compare today to yesterday, I might not notice the difference, just like if I compare the current pot of soup to the last one. But if I compare today to last fall, or this pot of soup to one I made then, I am blown away by the difference, and by how gradually and magically and softly and subtly it all changed.
There you have it – the first three basic Soup Truths I ever learned while putting together a pot of soup. If you’d like to read more about my relationship with soup, though, I have a treat for you. See, today is my (adopted) Dad’s birthday (happy birthday, Dad!). And last year, I wrote him a letter…all about a pot of soup I made. It’s part of my memoir, Metanoia, which is for sale on Amazon, but in honor of his birthday, I’m making just this one piece, “Potato Soup Musings,” available free of charge. It’s about many things, but mainly about the eroticism of a pot of potato soup…and also how much I love my Dad.
I’m sure, in the fall and winter ahead, you’ll be hearing much more from me about soup, but for now, I’m going to go check the pot on the stove, and see if it’s time to add the next ingredient, yet. While it simmers, I’d love to hear below about what kinds of soup y’all like, or what sorts of life lessons you might have to share from your own relationship with soup.