2013-11-07 / Columns

Chicken Soup For The Soul

Soup’s Good
by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen
Distributed by King Features Syndicate

by Elaine Togneri

“Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

* * *

A woman makes soup.

* * *

I cut the roots and leaf stems off six leeks and wash them well. I slice the white and light green parts of the stalks. Their onionlike scent permeates the kitchen. Soon onions will join them and carry their fragrance throughout the house.

I don’t remember when I first made my version of potato leek soup based on a recipe from “Joy of Cooking,” but once I did, it became the most popular dish in our family’s Easter tradition. “Did you make the soup?” was the first question everyone asked when they arrived to celebrate the holiday. I didn’t dare stop making it.

I peel and slice a couple of large white onions. Tears sting my eyes. Chopping onions is a good way to grieve without being obvious. I add chunks of butter to a large stainless-steel stockpot and turn on the burner. Returning to the cutting board, I continue chopping. The pile of vegetables grows. When I finish, I toss everything in with the sizzling butter.

No one loved my soup more than my husband’s older brother Jo-Jo. The creamy flavor satisfied even the taste buds of this heavy smoker. He was always first in line when we served the soup and back for seconds soon after.

I wash and peel potatoes. After rinsing them again, I pat them dry with a paper towel. I stop and stir the butter-leek-onion saute between slicing potatoes. The kitchen smells even better than before.

Even after Jo-Jo had surgery for throat cancer and ate via a feeding tube, he enjoyed the soup. He thinned it a bit to pump it into his stomach. “Soup’s good,” he told me, his eyes as bright as his smile. We talked about the books we were reading and favorite authors as I put the final touches on the holiday meal.

I add the potatoes to the pot and pour enough chicken stock in to cover everything. The soup needs to simmer until the potatoes are tender. I’ve dirtied several spatulas and dripped stock across the stove. The counters are covered with discarded damp towels, onion skins and potato peels. I am not a neat cook, but neatness doesn’t count. Flavor does.

Jo-Jo and his wife invited the whole family for Thanksgiving. “He’s not doing well,” my husband Paul said.

“Let’s make the soup and take it,” I suggested.

A hint of a smile crossed Paul’s face. “He’ll like that.”

We arrived at their home, carrying a large container and a chafing dish. “We brought the soup,” I said.

An echo went up around the dining room. “She made the soup.” Jo-Jo hurried away from the football game playing on the TV and smiled. I handed him a small glass bowl filled with soup specially thinned for him that I’d kept warm.

A batch at a time, I puree the soup in my food processor. The blades whirl, transforming the potatoes and vegetables into a velvety concoction that I return to a clean stockpot. I season with white pepper and salt and then add the final touch right before serving, a pint of light cream.

Thanksgiving was the last time Jo-Jo enjoyed my soup. He passed in early December of that year.

I only make the soup for special occasions. Every time I prepare it, I pause and shed a few tears. I think fondly of Jo-Jo, remembering how much he loved it. I imagine he’s watching my ritual with approval and telling me, “Soup’s good.”

When I call the family to dinner, I wonder if they hear Jo-Jo too, because, before long, someone always shouts, “Soup’s good.”

* * *

Visit our website: www.chicken soup.com.

(c)2013 by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen

Distributed by King Features Syndicate

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