It started out innocently with me just wanting to cook some soup. It was the last day of September and it felt wrong not to usher my favorite month in with fall-y flavors. In front of me were blameless ingredients. Beef broth, black beans, pumpkin puree, a can of San Marzano tomatoes, an onion, a shallot, half a bulb of garlic, and some chopped ham. The scene looked great. No one was home. My in-laws have a bright, open kitchen with windows facing their garden and my plan was to rock a chef’s knife back and forth while smiling and watching a bird. I’m generally a slow cook (I see my future kids falling asleep at the table while my foot goes down on needing whatever it is to marinate properly), except this time I was motivated to race the sunset -- a telling sign since what I did to this poor soup was clearly due to impetuousness and rash decision-making, not two of my better traits. I did beat the sunset but that warm and tingly feeling of having just made something wasn’t filling me up. And since no one was home to congratulate me on my win, I turned more attention to the soup. This soup came together too quickly. There are times I like that and times I don’t. I know the pleasure of throwing together a fast and easy meal, but sometimes to feel productive, I need to feel like it took many steps to get there. I anticipate the pains. So I wasn’t concerned with eating the soup anymore. I was concerned with flittering about in the kitchen and taking more steps.
Again, it started out innocently.
Salt. Pepper. Stir.
Where’s the cumin? No cumin?
They have paprika, I’ll use paprika.
It’s not spicy. Maybe some of that hot sauce over there. Shake, splat.
Too hot? We can sweeten it. A squeeze of honey. Squirt.
Not bad. What else?
I want it heartier.
It all goes downhill when I open the fridge and the plastic containers of my aunt’s leftover Rosh Hashanah foods are front and center. Spiced cauliflower. Herbed mushrooms. Eggplant salad. Spicy, Israeli tomato sauce. I took her food home for a reason and it’s because all of it is delicious. Full of flavor. The perfect toppings to pair with crusty bread. Instead I treat each container like a different spice. Plop, plop, plop, and plop. The wooden spoon can barely make a full swirl without soup spilling over, the spits upsetting the flame. I taste it and have no reaction. There is so much going on here.
I back away slowly but I keep my eye on it even though someone should clearly be home right now keeping an eye on me. I turn the flame off. I cover the pot with a lid. I retreat to the living room to watch dvr’d episodes of Jacques Pepin. I fall asleep on the couch without my dinner.
In the morning, half-asleep, before he leaves for work, I tell Michael to take some soup with him for lunch. There’s so much of it, I think. And it’s so bad.
“How was the soup?” I ask him later in the day.
His response is perfect.
“Well, at first it tasted like vomit, but then I ate all of it.”
I'll spare you the recipe.