The digging through the basket of random recipe cards and email print outs and magazine tear outs for that one specific recipe. The roasting and chopping and measuring. The stirring and sizzling. The smells. Oh the smells. In just a few simple steps, you go back. Every single time.
You go back to being a kid. Coming home from church on Sunday to that aromatic reminder it is fall and mom made soup. Your favorite soup. Pumpkin soup. The one you ask for even in April because it’s your birthday and you can ask mom to cook whatever you want.
And then you are in college in your first apartment and you want to feel that way again. Mom emails the recipe this time. It’s so simple. A few vegetables sizzling in a pot. But you are back again. Just that simple huh? So you do it again and again. Every fall. Because you know it works. Like nothing else. Comfort. Familiarity. Home.
This summer was rough for me. As Emily was rounding home on her pregnancy journey, I jumped on board. Those early weeks are exhausting, sickening. But that is nothing compared to the feeling of just not being “yourself.” You take away my desire to cook and create and feel, and you take away much of what I know to be me.
But I came back. Gradually of course. It started with cookbooks, then blogs, then grocery lists and browsing markets. Then a cool fall morning with no plans and I found myself back in the kitchen. And just like that, that familiar smell filled my home. Pumpkin soup. Just like mom always made. I was back. And there is nothing like the comforts of a bowl of soup to celebrate you.
This feeling of losing yourself and craving the comfort of crawling back to the reminders of who you once were, who you still are, these are no stranger to me. I remember that same feeling when my daughter was born two years ago. I was a mom. Hurray! And there was exhaustion and confusion and frustration all wrapped up into amazement and love and gratitude. All those emotions are challenging enough to battle without trying to now redefine your new persona. You are a mom now, they say. Welcome to motherhood, they say. So is that who I am now? And what does that mean?
But it wasn’t figuring out how to be a mom that made me feel like myself again. I got better at that of course. But, no, that wasn’t it. It wasn’t until I started to see “me” again in our new normal. Creating menus and fitting in time for cooking. Planning get-togethers and parties. Going for a run. Brunching with girldriends. Dating my husband. These little bits and pieces started to work their way into my life again. And it was there in the middle of all that reminders of who I was started wafting through my day to day. I was a mom, yes it’s true and I was so proud of that. But thankfully that was just an awesome title on the bookshelf of my life. Some days, many days, that title is all that I feel I have time and energy to open up. But sometimes, on good days, I get to be a chef, a writer, a crafter, a friend, a wife, a teacher, a learner. All simple ingredients that when simmered together, I think make up a pretty damn good pot of soup.
So to my sister, and to all new moms, this soup is a reminder that gradually, one day, when you are not planning it, those parts that make up who you know about yourself will find their way back into your kitchen, your home, your life. And if you are anything like me, and I think, sister, you very much are, cooking is what just might bring you back. This soup is a great way to start. The chopping is simple and can be done hours, days even, in advance, a must for anyone as confused as I was about nap times and feeding times. Then everything is dumped into a pot with a comforting dose of butter (don’t skimp on this. There is nothing else but veggies in this and real butter is so good for you when done right, and this way is so right. Trust me), a few bay leaves (that is indeed what makes this soup unique, I guarantee it), your favorite chicken stock (don’t stress about homemade now unless that is what brings you comfort then by all means), and a bit of salt and pepper. The stove does the work, another blessing for anyone at this stage in your life, while you sit back, gaze at your baby, or the back of your eye lids if you are lucky. An hour later with a simple whir in the blender, you serve up the best cup of nourishing warmth just right for someone needing comfort. Familiarity. Home. Chocolate is comforting too, but after this giant bowl of good for the soul vegetables, you just might not need anything else.
It goes by so fast, they say. It’s a blur to me now, they say. You’ll figure it out soon, they say. And yes, it’s all true. But only you will know when you are back. Those ingredients of your life will come together when they are all just right. Just like mom did for us, on a fall day, or winter day, or spring day, or any day. Gradually it will all simmer together. And it will be so good.
And P.S., please bear with us, my sis and I, as we both learn to find ourselves again in the kitchen among the delicate dance of new babies and growing bellies.
Hey sis, try this…
Mom’s Pumpkin Soup
This soup is called pumpkin because it looks like pumpkin but the flavor is so much more in depth, more resembling a hearty tomato soup, because the carrots and tomatoes and peppers and onions take up as much room as the roasted pumpkin. I suggest roasting a pie pumpkin whole in the oven at 375 degrees for about an hour. Half way through, cut pumpkin in half and scoop out seeds (save those for roasting later.) Roast pumpkin cut side down until flesh is so smooth you can scoop it out like butter. Mm mm good.
2 cups tomatoes, chopped
1 cup carrot, grated
½ cup green pepper
1 cup onion, chopped
6 T butter
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups cooked pumpkin
3 bay leaves
½ t grated nutmeg
½ t pepper
1 t sugar
1 t salt
Splash of whole milk (optional but helps to thin out the soup at the end)
Roasted Pumpkin seeds for Garnish (This sweet and spicy one is my all time favorite recipe. Keep the stringy strands with the seeds too for a unique and tasty texture.)
Melt butter in soup pot. Saute onion, green pepper, carrots, and tomatoes until soft. Add the rest of the ingredients accept for milk. Simmer 45 minutes. Blend soup and thin with milk. Season to taste.
(Shortest direction list so far on the blog!)