Sometimes the rain stops. Then it starts again. It can be gloomy and relentless, not unlike being the parent of a girl in early adolescence.
It’s the time of year for soup, and for moroseness and for hormonal upheaval, it seems. I love soup – I can’t say I always feel the same about rain, or the spirit-dampening enterprise of parenting. I have woefully few soup recipes in my repertoire but I do have this tricky little number I love sharing because it’s that rare small-effort-big-results pairing that I spend my life hunting down. I am tireless in my pursuit of culinary ease. I wear myself out looking for ways not to exert myself. You see how this works?
I like whole wheat spaghetti noodles or soba noodles in this soup. But I plan to try rice noodles in it soon because one by one, all the people I love are becoming gluten-free. I may be the last person standing, gorging myself on poisonous wheat that apparently glues ones insides together and causes hideous intestinal misadventure. And in a cruel twist, it tastes good doing it. And so I may become a regular at my local Asian market. They have loads of rice noodles, along with assorted delights such as fresh, cheap herbs. I bought mint there the other day so I could enjoy it on grapefruit, with lime juice.
I like soups involving lots of potential add-ins so everyone can fashion their own bowl. This requires some chopping but so do most soups. If you are averse to chopping then you will spend your life eating pre-chopped, pre-packaged vegetables that are dry and brown around the edges. And that, Eaters, is no life at all.
You will need to make a trip to Trader Joe’s. At various times over the years, I have attempted to make my own Asian-inspired broths. Be my guest if you choose to make your own, but I have found a foolproof shortcut: “No-Chicken” Chicken Broth mixed with Miso Ginger Broth and voila, (or whatever the Japanese word for voila is) the perfect broth.
Make a pot of noodles and when they are a couple minutes from completion, pour in a cup of shelled, frozen edamame into the boiling water with them. Once done, I drain the works and toss them with a bit of sesame oil and sesame seeds. I tend to do that bit earlier in the day and leave it in the fridge because then part of dinner preparation is completed and every time I open the fridge over the course of the day (which, when it’s raining, is often) I feel a little shiver of smugness. Then I set the broth to simmering while I chop tofu, scallions, cilantro, snap peas and maybe greens of some kind. Once we are ready to sit down, everyone fills their bowl with the toppings, then we pour the hot broth over it which lightly cooks the peas.
Thomas Berry said, “To tell the story of anything, you have to tell the story of everything.” Berry was a Catholic priest and ecotheologian, speaking about the origins of the universe. When I quote him, I am speaking about the origins of dinner. Sometimes a hastily smacked together quesadilla is just a means to fill up and isn’t redolent with meaning and back story. But fixing food is almost always about more than getting people full, or it should be. I look back on my childhood and my mother’s pies, roasts and ginger cakes are all chapters in a book about putting part of yourself into every meal, hoping it’s a good part and that it will be absorbed. Maybe that’s why soup always makes me feel like someone cares about me, and why I can’t relay a recipe without a story.
Three out of four immediate family members surveyed liked this meal! My oldest daughter elected to have almonds instead and I tried not to take it personally. Years from now, I hope she will remember that I tried (repeatedly, fruitlessly) to make her dinner. I am always hoping to offer her a steaming bowl of something that tastes like love, hoping it’s a flavor she will instantly recognize.