2002.10.23 The secret to my soup

Written by David Green.


I’d have to say that I never really learned to cook. That doesn’t sound right knowing that I lived mostly alone for about 11 years and had to feed myself, but I think it must be true.

I wish I had a clearer recollection of what I ate in those days. Not much, it seems. There was always breakfast. That was easy. There were peanut butter sandwiches. Lots of peanut butter sandwiches. Macaroni and cheese, perhaps? I just don’t remember.

I recall discovering Dannon yogurt, back when it came in a waxy paper container with a paper cover. I remember Pop Tarts, cinnamon and brown sugar flavored.

I know I ate fruit. I remember frozen vegetables. I remember doughnuts. My friend, John, and I discovered day-old doughnuts from Dunkin’ Doughnuts and we ate far too many. My cholesterol level is now way down on the low end of the scale, but if I die early of a heart attack, I  know it will be the result of those dangerous day-olds.

That was the first year out of the college dorm. The second year I lived in a rooming house that didn’t even have cooking facilities. I’m flummoxed. I don’t know how I survived. I have a memory of Taco Bell arriving in East Lansing—cheap beans and cheese.

When I went off to Saginaw for a couple of years after college, I started off once again in a rooming house that had no cooking facilities. I don’t know what the other men in the house did. There was Carl, the bus driver, and Rudy, the taxi driver.

I don’t think Rudy worried much about eating. He would come home late at night pretty soused up and start carrying on a conversation with the walls. “Hello, walls. How ya’ doing, walls?”

I worked in child care centers and maybe I fueled up at noon. They served a lot of grits and collard greens.

Next came the rural school in Maine. I was given a jug of maple syrup for Christmas but I wasn’t in a pancake era. Instead, I took a swig of syrup in the mornings as though it were an elixir. The foolish students left behind some great items from their sack lunches. Entire sandwiches sometimes.

In Oregon I discovered the food cooperative and was introduced to a variety of new items. I often lived with a stove, but in some places I got by with a crock pot.

THAT MIGHT have marked the start of soup making. That’s about all that survives anymore. No longer do I make my own bread, yogurt and tofu. [you make a sudden leap from no cooking to heavy duty food preparation. seems like you should have a line at least of transition]

I know that something is lost when a person gives these things up, but I’ve traded it in for making newspapers. I have a good recipe for that. The one thing that survives in the kitchen is soup, but it’s nothing anyone else is interested in eating. I’ll make a big pot on Sunday and have leftovers for a week of lunches.

That’s cold weather behavior and the urge struck Friday night. It started off the way all my soups do, but it ended very different. This became a soup I could serve to company.

I chopped a few cloves of garlic and a couple of onions and fried them while the rice boiled. I never start with a good stock so my creations are deficient from the start.

I added the fried stuff to the pot and started cutting up potatoes. They were added before I remembered the slower cooking carrots, so I had to steam those first. I fried some tofu and added that.

I think that’s all I did. There are times when I’ll add cabbage. There are times where I’ll clean out the refrigerator of leftovers and add all of that.

That wasn’t quite the end of it; there was a secret ingredient. Actually, it was a secret process. I told my wife that she never eats these dull stews that I make and I invited her to take over with the seasoning. That was after she claimed that the rice tasted as though it had been boiled without salt. Of course she was right.

She seasoned that soup and it tasted incredibly good, like nothing I’ve made before. I always enjoy my soups, but this was special. Colleen liked it, too, and the next day one of the kids even had a bowl—a bowl of my soup!

I ate two bowls the next day and it was then that I gave the soup a name. It’s called Sadness Soup because tomorrow it will be gone and I fear that I’ll never again be able to make a soup that good.

Of course I could try for that secret ingredient again and maybe take a few notes during the process.

    – Oct. 23, 2002 
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