For most of my life, I did not like to cook and so I did not cook. Oh, I knew how to cook, having grown up with a father who spent many of his most favourite hours in the kitchen Its just that I was uninterested. Cooking seemed a lot of work and I was, I guess, inherently a culinary sloth.
As a young graduate student at the University of Manitoba, I survived on croissants and lemon yoghurt and grapes. Hot meals were enjoyed at the homes of friends or in restaurants.
When I first started hanging out with my partner, he worked split shifts and would come to my apartment after shift in the wee hours of the morning. Tired and hungry, he would find himself spending too much money at a 24 hour corner store getting salami and stale buns. Not being one to mince too many words, I made it clear to him that if he were wanting hot food, he would have to take care of that for himself.
This was a successful tactic and he wholeheartedly stepped up for the challenge. He learned how to operate a kitchen range, he experimented with spices — sometimes in early stage frightening, repulsive combinations — and, with his trademark attention to detail and routine (a positive trait in the culinary world and music libraries), he became a good cook. Over time, with practice and interest, he developed into an exceptional cook. I think he enjoyed many of his hours in the kitchen and in the markets. Spices were a passion for him and his brooding sense of adventure seemed well satisfied with a spatula in hand and a cuisinart at the ready.
With my lack of interest in, and great distaste (haha) for, the kitchen arts, though I have always enjoyed eating great food and washing dishes, we were a culinary love match, meant to live separate kitchen lives but share loving table times over the decades.
And there have been many memorable meals. I am graced by his company and his hunger.
If there were baking to be done — rarely — I did it. Accepting the responsibility of plum pudding after my grandmother died, and being a fanatic for lemon meringue pie, I had a small role at the counter. At some point I bloomed into a cheesecake queen, candying edible flowers from my garden to adorn the tops of the cakes on cheesecake party day and burning the motors out of blenders. The cheesecake queen lies latent in me still, ready to burst out at any urgent need. I am in possession of many tried and true recipes; cheesecakes which can bring you to your knees.
But, mostly, I have disdained being in the kitchen unless I am elbow deep in warm soapy water and everyone else in the house has surreptitiously disappeared.
Until soup happened, that is. For most of my life I have not even been a big fan of soup. Nope. Uh uh. In fact, I rather disliked the slurpy stuff, never thinking of it as a meal.
And then, one Sunday in late December 2007 I decided to make a soup. It was a roasted butternut squash soup with ginger, basil and coconut. Very yummy, easy to make…it somehow spoke to my soul…and I was hooked! I made a different soup every Sunday for the rest of the winter, including black bean soup with mexican cornbread, Moroccan harira, Greek avgolemono, roasted mushroom soup, and Ethiopian-inspired red lentil soup.
Winter season of 2008/2009 brought on an almost completely new repertoire of spoonable soul satisfiers.
And here I am, a month and a half too early for the ’09/’10 Soup Season, making soup on a cool November Sunday.
It is my mom’s 78th birthday today – Happy Birthday Mom, I love you!
Seafood Ginger Soup
- 6c chicken stock
- 1/2c ginger root, thinly sliced
- 1-2 portobello mushrooms, sliced
- 8-10 shitake mushrooms, sliced
- 1/4 lb uncooked shrimp
- 6 – 8 scallops
- 1/2 cup green onion, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped – add more to taste
- a slosh of soy sauce – in the spirit of Graham Kerr’s wine sloshes 🙂
Bring stock to a gentle boil. Add slices of ginger. Simmer for five minutes, remove ginger from broth (save the ginger for another dish).
Add mushrooms and simmer for five more minutes.
Add shrimp and simmer for one minute. Add scallops; simmer for just one minute more then turn off heat.
Add green onions, cilantro and soy sauce to taste right before serving.
Enjoy with loved ones or in solitary bliss.
“Good soup is one of the prime ingredients of good living. For soup can do more to lift the spirits and stimulate the appetite than any other one dish.” ~ Louis P De Gouy