03 August 2015
papersquare 005: Making soup
She was shelling broad beans, squeezing the pointy end until it pops and then sliding her thumb inside to pull the halves apart; cushiony foam and pale bean grubs inside. It must be thirty years ago since she'd done it last, maybe more?
Growing up, she'd later realised that it wasn't so much a wish to torture the kids with summertime chores that meant they had fruit trees, bushes and a vegetable garden. Hours of getting under the nets to pull the raspberries off their spiky white plugs, or topping and tailing the blackberries. It wasn't even a hippy ethos, her mother was about as far from being an earth mother as it was possible to be. In the seventies, with their endless hot summers, inflation took bites out of anything you needed to buy from the shops; it was economic necessity that led to growing your own food. Not that they were on the verge of starving, no, but if you wanted a plum crumble, or a gooseberry pie, well, you had to make it yourself because those things just weren't in the shops. With a family of gannets rather than children, a pie didn't see a second meal.
It was the third time she'd washed her big saucepan out today. The first was after making stock; some instinct had her grab the reduced price chicken in the supermarket, only £2.58. After roasting it and pulling the meat off for salads and curry, she'd boiled the bones up with garlic, onion, peppercorns and coriander. Next, she'd boiled the assorted dried beans up, after soaking of course; and finally she'd made the soup, throwing in the newly-bared broad beans as an extra embellishment, baby plum tomatoes too. She had learned that following the recipe exactly was not obligatory. Thank goodness her mother's creativity had rubbed off on her. Toasted cubes of ciabatta bread for the topping.
The same recipe she was mostly following, they sold the soup in cartons in the supermarket. That was on special offer, only one of your British pounds for a carton that gave you a generous bowlful. She'd made six bowlfuls, and it was touch and go if her ingredients cost more than six cartons. So it wasn't about economic necessity, this urge to make and make over, she wasn't really sure what it was about. It wasn't as though she had any other mouths to feed. Making for the sake of making, creating a little bit of order maybe? Home-making of the wishful kind - if you build it they will come?
Outside the sun had come out to mock her, it's not soup weather, stupid. But today, there was something nice about making soup.