I have done many good and useful things this week. Few of them involve writing books, unfortunately, but in my (weak) defense, my kitchen is under construction and it’s vastly distracting. It turns out that for me, it’s easier to do my taxes while people are smashing things in another room than it is to write. Live and learn, right? But hey, at least my taxes are basically done. I’m still waiting on forms, but the hard part is over.
What does that have to do with soup? Not much. Except the aforesaid kitchen issues means that at the moment, I have no kitchen sink, no stove, no oven, no dishwasher. And a very restrictive diet that does not permit simply settling in for delicious take-out for the next couple weeks. I thought feeding myself on this diet was already taking too much time — little did I know how much more challenging it might get.
However, I think I’m also just maybe being a little crazy about it? Yesterday, I decided to throw a chicken in the crockpot. I chopped up an onion and a lemon and threw those in, too, and then sprinkled the whole thing with Italian seasonings and garlic salt. Then I ignored it for eight hours or so.
When I finally went back to it, the meat was falling off the bones so I spent a pleasant fifteen minutes pulling all the meat out, ignoring the plaintive eyes of the three dogs clustered at my feet. When I was finished, I looked at all the bits left in the crockpot — bones and skin and onion and bits of meat too small to get — and thought, ugh, how am I going to clean this without a sink or a garbage disposal? Much to the dogs’ sorrow, I did not think it would be safe for them to do the job. But I also realized, hmm, this might make a nice broth.
So instead of tossing the whole mess into a garbage can, I covered it with water, plugged it back in, and left it alone all night. This morning, I spent another pleasant quarter hour carefully filtering the liquid from the rest. When I was done, I had two Mason jars full of chicken/onion/lemon broth.
Well, broth means soup, right? But this was weird broth, plus no kitchen. I do have a barbecue, though. Unfortunately, it looked like it might rain. So of course I did what any sensible person would do — I went rummaging around in the refrigerator/pantry to see what I had that could be turned into soup, without violating the rules of my crazy grain-free diet. No rice, no noodles, no orzo… but I had artichoke hearts. And parsnips. And spinach…
I chopped up some onion, put it in a saucepan on the grill, sauteed it for a while, added some chopped-up parsnips, kept sauteing, added some chopped-up artichoke hearts, kept sauteing, added the broth, threw in some chicken, brought the whole thing to a nice simmering boil, tossed in the spinach, and took it off the fire when the spinach was still bright green but wilted. It needed salt, but otherwise… yum.
Of course, my dish problem has not gone away at all — in fact, I made it even worse. But it still looks like it’s going to rain, so I’m thinking I’ll line up the dishes in the grass for a first rinse. (Kidding. Sort of. The bathtub is probably a lot more efficient.)
But it made me think about soup. I want to say that it’s hard to ruin soup, but I have, in fact, ruined soup more than once. It’s very easy to ruin soup if you add too much of something — too much salt, too much hot sauce, too much of an overpowering flavor. It’s also easy to ruin soup if you start with a bad base. I’ve made bone broth before that for whatever reason turned out disgusting. Disgusting broth makes disgusting soup. (I think it was because I forgot about it and let it boil. Also garlic in broth can be very overpowering.) But if you start with a broth that tastes good and you add ingredients that taste good and whose flavors complement one another, then even if its weird — and let’s face it, parsnip artichoke spinach chicken soup isn’t showing up on any gourmet restaurant menus anytime soon — it works out okay.
And all of that is a really good metaphor for writing. I’ve lost track of how many unfinished projects I have going on. I need to start trusting that my broth is okay and my ingredients are at least interesting, so my soup is going to be fine, and stop second-guessing myself all the time.
I’ve been reading a lot this week, too — telling myself that as a writer, reading is practically part of the job description, while playing WoW is not. (Every time I play a little WoW, a part of my brain does a rebellious, back-of-the-brain, lecture about how WoW is story-telling and I could be learning from it and how it’s actually stretching my creativity, but the rest of me knows that’s BS.) Anyway, if I get ambitious tomorrow, and/or stuck on the current story again, I may write about the things I’ve learned from watching successful writers break the rules, because I have been thinking about writing, even while not doing it. Meanwhile, though, I think I’ll go eat some more soup. And contemplate the dirty dishes.
Making home-made soup, entirely from scratch, with no sink or stove or oven — I think that ought to be a metaphor for something, too. I’m just not sure what. Or maybe it’s not a metaphor, just a symbol.