I don’t know how it began. Wait…yes, I do. It began while watching my mother make soup which she did often. There were eight children to feed (I am the eldest) so she had to stretch whatever she had as far as she could. And she was good at it.
She used to send me into town, a few blocks away, to buy “soup greens.” I was always happy to do it for her, ‘tho I thought of soup greens as being weird. She never explained their purpose to me. Now whenever I pass a bundle of them in the grocery store, of course I think of her.
Today I am making borscht. I bought and cooked the beets about a week ago. Today, a snow day, is the perfect day to make this soup and eat it. I love the ritual of making soup. Most of the soups I make are variations on the standards, like chicken soup, because they involve going into the fridge to see what vegetables and condiments I have that need to be used. I have become a very confident soup maker, from years of practice. I also think of making soup as a gift to my family since it does involve a lot of preparation and cooking time.
In fact, I love making soup so much I wrote a poem about it in 2011: Soup from the Bone. Remarkably, it still has relevance.
Soup from the Bone
With age comes the ability
To see the much bigger picture
How everything has its season,
And how the seasons come
And they go
On the radio, the news tells us
one fifth of the country
Is living in poverty
And one-third is just barely hanging on
Occupy Wall Street says we are the 99%
Making do with what
The 1% has left for us to share
On my late fall walk along the bay
Along a road flanked by stockbrokers’
And bankers’ houses
I scrutinize these homes
And, yes, I do
Feel a twinge of envy
As I wonder what it’s like to live
In an 18 room house
With 4 or 5 baths,
A heated pool,
A gardener, a maid and a view!
But then I remember my mother
Shopping for furniture at
The Salvation Army Store, with me,
Her oldest, alongside
feeling somewhat embarrassed,
and how she made
“soup from the bone,”
as my daughter now calls it,
so that nothing would be wasted,
something I still do and feel proud of now,
‘tho I didn’t back then.
I remember, too, the hand-me-downs
From neighbors and relatives
And the meager pile of gifts at Christmas
Which was the best they could do
For eight children
I knew that then
And still do.
Back home in the kitchen
After my walk
The news is on again,
The economy is on the skids
Ordinary Americans are worried,
Boomers are angry
But I know we will survive
As I stir my soup pot,
The coming of winter.
Plus ca change, plus ca reste le meme! The words still echo.