Thursday, February 02, 2006


For as long as I can remember, I've never liked soup. My mom worked evenings for a short stint when we were younger, leaving my father to take care of my two sisters and I. He didn't know how to cook then, so every night, he would make us soup from a can. I don't remember any of this. I must have become sick of canned soup after multiple successive days and weeks, as I can't stand it now. It makes my stomach turn.

There are a very select few soups that I do enjoy, of course. Stracchiatella, the soup that we serve at our Italian family weddings. Vietnamese pho. And of course, my mom's chicken soup.

Homemade. From scratch, because that is how her own mother did it. I remember standing on the old, tattered stool in my childhood home, just barely able to peek over the counter, helping her cook and bake. It always made me feel like I was doing something important. I'd pour the water into the pot. I'd put ingredients in, being careful not to splash. Of course I couldn't handle a knife very well for fear of cutting myself. But in my own mind, I was helping create something really, really good.

Nothing artificial in this soup. Chicken. Vegetables. Herbs. That little star-shaped pasta. A can of peeled tomatoes, the only thing that was preserved in the entire concoction.

It took a couple of hours to bring this dish to fruition. But it was always delicious.

It wasn't just chicken soup; it was Mom's chicken soup. It always satisfied my hunger, and brought me comfort during those cold Canadian winters.

Now, as an adult, 2,600 miles away and in a place where it never snows, her recipe still brings me the same comfort, reminding me of home, warming my soul. And as I chop the ingredients and place them in the big, simmering pot, I am again that little girl standing on the stool, peeking over the counter in anticipation and wonder.

"Have some soup," she used to say. I never turned down that warmth, emanating not only from the pot, but from the heart.

Thanks, Mom.


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