November 09, 2008

The soup saga...

Bear told me a while ago that when it became obvious we were going to be married he thought, “Well, it’ll be great to spend the rest of my life with her and all, but I’m going to have to teach her to cook.” Let’s just say that my bachelorette days in the kitchen were not the most glamorous. I couldn’t get the hang of cooking and shopping for one so I always had things getting scary in the back of the fridge. A good part of my life was spent as a vegetarian, so by habit, most of these things were various articles of produce.

Now my mother felt that her childhood was used up by excessive chores and cooking. Both parents worked and she was expected to take care of her younger sister (by seven years) and cook a predicated meal. The required ingredients were never available so as a result, my mom became a genius at substituting ingredients and making up recipes. Unfortunately she passed none of this knowledge onto me because she overcompensated by releasing me from almost all kitchen duty. One thing she did teach me was when fruit is going bad, you should make a fruit smoothie. The veggie equivalent to this wisdom: soup.

I always had vegetables going bad. I ate a lot of soup. I lived on soup. I swam in soup. I made really crappy soup.

Three problems: pasty rice, too little liquid, no seasonings. Not to mention the monochromatic assortment of not-quite-right veggies. The result was a cream colored mush with the flavor of cardboard, the appearance of something already digested, and a smell with a faint resemblance to a compost pile. My mom was always pleased when I told her I cooked at home most of the time. Had she seen what I was eating, she would have begged me to go to McDonald’s. It’s a miracle I didn’t die.

Anyways, during our dating period, Bear choked down a lot of Tater soup. I’m flattered that the pleasure of my company outweighed the unfortunate meal. But after we did get married, I made a vow to do better. I knew it was bad, I just had a really low standard when it came to cooking for myself. I figured if he loved me enough to make that commitment, it would be really rude to kill him off. So I armed myself with the Walmart Family Cookbook, Kraft Food and Family Magazine, and and went to town. I cooked every night and had a warm plate waiting when he got home. I surfed the internet for hours to find his favorite recipes. I made bread from scratch, and refried beans, and yogurt. It was cooking nirvana at our house. But no matter how many times I proved myself, his smile would plummet if I ever mentioned making soup. No matter how many great recipes I showed him, no matter how many glowing comments people left about the creation, I was not allowed redeem myself.

Eventually I got to try a few attempts. He wasn’t happy about them but he ate them in relative silence. I had some flops but even the good ones didn’t garner comments. My rotten soups were so scaring and so ingrained in his memory that I guess they all tasted horrible. I think there’s a psychological explanation for that…

But last night, I had little time and few ingredients and the first recipe I found that fit those two requirements was Cheesy Potato and Turkey Soup. I prayed a little and went for it. As I presented him with a steaming bowl garnished with crackers I said, “Honey, you won’t believe it but I think I finally made a soup worth eating.”

I go back into the kitchen and strain to hear the accolades. “Tater, these crackers are amazing!” He would. “Thanks Bear, I worked all day on ‘em.” I get myself a bowl and sit down beside him. “So what about the part that DIDN’T come out of a package?” No answer.

We ate, he got up to get some more and I followed. I asked, “Are you having some more because you actually like it or because you’re just that hungry?” “Oh, it’s ok.” He looked at me sideways. “And by that I mean it’s pretty darn good.”

Me: 1 Soup: too many to count

But hey, I have that one. And that’s one step closer to being a better Tater.

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