Yonks ago I made a big pot of soup. Sweet Potato and Red Pepper. My old ma made it once when she came to stay, saying, what can I DO? This to a woman, her daughter, who copies her parrot fashion when anyone offers to help.
Nothing Ma, I said gently, removing the bread knife she waved about herself, the tea towel in her other hand. She wasn’t having any of it. Despite my response, she took herself off to the fridge for a rummage, returning with the ingredients she needed, and she set to work. By the time tummies rumbled, the soup was ready, gently simmered and whizzed to death. There was a happy warm joy around the kitchen table that lunchtime when the outside of things were mostly wet and windy.
The pot I had made was far too much to keep in the fridge, to keep from a fermentation process, one that has always driven me wild with fury. Quietly, and without a word of warning, something delicious just turns like a season. From salival anticipation to an olfactory recoil overnight. Everything does it, eventually. Even us. So, I froze it, the whole caboosh and forgot about it. This lunchtime I managed to finish it with help from a friend or two and felt like I had outsmarted it. Ha! I actually said to the bright orange mixture after a smell check today. Gotcha! I did, momentarily, wonder at the excitement levels in my life, recognising that to feel such elation, to do that little dance in front of my fridge, to thrill that I had won one over on a pot of soup probably means I don’t get out enough.
As I walked the small dog this afternoon just before yet another gale blasts the holy crunch out of our already sodden island in the middle of somewhere, I considered soup. I let the strands of a soup thinking process spread their fingers across all of life, never being the sort of woman who can just think one thought, like a soup one, and leave it at that. I walked alongside a friend for a bit, then off and up and away into the woods and along the shore line. The wind was already snatching at the trees, pulling off those already turned, and flighting them into a sky dance, trembling the grasses and pushing the bracken down across the path like an unruly fringe. I thought of all the different ingredients in a soup and in nature, in a season, in the turn of all seasons, inside a human heart, a person’s life. Each individual addition is of importance. Without one, the whole is compromised and, very possibly, rendered tasteless. A rotten red pepper in the soup or a lack of salt, of herbs, of pepper would change everything.
In my life, each decision, each choice, each direction or directive I select changes everything. A harsh word is like a rotten pepper. A bland face, set stoney with a mouth as downturned as a boiled prawn affects not only my soup but everyone else’s. Be careful what you say and how you say it, a wise old woman once said to me from inside my head, which is where she has made her home. She can really irritate me sometimes but no matter how I try to bash her on the head with my internal broom she has no intention of leaving. If I am experiencing a poor relationship with one day, she gives me no leeway for projecting blame, on anyone, of anything. She demands a perfect soup, made with love and without a rotten red pepper in sight. Before I even make the first journey downstairs of a morning, she requires me to check my credentials. By the time I reach the bottom I am usually in shape. During the day, someone else’s rotten pepper may be thrown in my face, but even then retaliation is disallowed. She is way too perfect for me to be honest and I do retaliate but she has taught me there are ok ways and not ok ways for such.
Once, way back as a young and angry wife, I lost it, completely. Himself had said something so utterly outrageous and in such a mocking and dismissive tone and with such authority and arrogance that, without a sensible thought in my head, I picked up the boiling soup pot, affixing the lid firmly with my trembling thumbs to throw it at him across the room. As I tipped the pot back over my head, hot soup burned my back. This didn’t stop me. I wanted him to feel this pain too. I hurled with all my strength and the result was spectacular. He dodged it, of course, but the far wall got the lot. Soup ran down in runnels. The table was coated in it, the vase of flowers re-coloured in an instant, all ornaments, cutlery, paperwork, chairs, stools and flooring ran red as if a giant had been stabbed right there in my kitchen and was bleeding out. He laughed at me (Himself, not the dying giant) and left the room. It took me days, weeks, to clear it up from the sprachle of it. I still don’t find it funny but my action did teach me the value of, not only soup (there was no lunch that day), but also that I seriously needed to practice my aim.