January 13, 2004
chicken soup for my soul
I made the stock, prepared all the spices and vegetables, and even added some egg noodles, at the urging of my wife. The entire house smelled like . . . well, it just smelled like warmth, and love, and home, if that makes any sense. The time spent in the kitchen was sort of meditative, as I carefully washed and cut parsnips, carrots, onions and sweet potatoes. I was delighted as the windows fogged up when I was dicing dill and parsley. It was just me and the stove, turning three quarts of water into a meal.
I'd talked about my plans for this meal for days, and inadvertently built it into an Event: Nolan cleaned and set the dining room table with great care. He carefully folded paper napkins and ensured that each of us had a spot-free soup spoon. Ryan put one of my Esquivel CDs on, and lit candles. Fortunately, they stopped short of donning clip-on ties . . . though I suspect the notion crossed their minds, for comic-relief if nothing else.
Because of this grand build-up, I was
Before we could take up our spoons, Nolan held his apple juice up and said, "A toast to Wil, for making soup from scratch!"
"Cheers!" Ryan said with a smile as we clinked glasses.
"I hope it doesn't suck," I said, recalling the eggplant pilaf I made last week. I thought it was fantastic (and ate it for lunch over the next two days) but it failed to excite Anne and the kids, who ended up eating hastily-prepared grilled cheese sandwiches that night.
"It smells so good," Ryan said, "Can I eat now?"
"Yes," I said. I felt like I was on an all-in stone bluff in late position, hoping for a fold, dreading a call.
Ryan lifted his spoon to his mouth, blew gently across it, and ate.
I looked across the table to Nolan, who was taking his spoon from his mouth. Anne hadn't picked up her spoon, yet. She was watching them almost as intently as I was.
Ryan swallowed, and was the first to speak.
"Oh my god, Wil! This is the best soup EVER!"
He removed any doubts that he was just being polite when he immediately dug in for another spoonful.
"What do you think, Nolan?" I asked.
"Normally, I hate cooked vegetables," he said, ". . . but whatever you did to them here made them really good!"
"That's awesome, you guys," I said, "I'm so glad you like it!" I felt like a kid again, showing off an "A" on a project to my parents, and I hadn't even tasted it yet!
I looked at Anne, and she smiled and gave me the thumbs up. "This is really good, Wil," she said.
That's all I needed to hear. I took my first bite . . . and it was heavenly. The last-minute decision to toss in a bit of cayenne paid off. It balanced the sweetness of the parsnips and yams brilliantly, and the fragrance of freshly-chopped dill filled every bite.
Though I love to cook, I'm not particularly good at it, and there was a very good chance that I'd screw this up. I know that to make a meal that the family enjoys is a very small thing, and people do it every day . . . but the whole reason I wanted to write about this is what Ryan said to me when we were washing dishes after dinner:
"You know, Wil," he said, "tonight,you did something nobody else has ever done."
"Not only did you get Nolan to eat cooked vegetables . . . " he turned off the water and faced me. "But you got him to go back for seconds. High-five, Wil. Seriously."
We laughed together, effortlessly, like a happy parent and child, and turned the water back on.
"Nolan and Mom are going to watch TV. Do you want to read when we're done with these?" he asked. I've been reading The Two Towers and he is about to finish 'salem's Lot. For the past week, we've been sitting outside or next to our fireplace, depending on the weather and time of day, and reading together.
"Yes," I said, "Yes, I do."
These are the moments that I cherish. These are the memories I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
Posted by wil at January 13, 2004 11:35 AM
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