soup tuesday

I’ve never met a bowl of soup I didn’t like.  In fact, I’d go so far to say that soup, homemade cookies, good coffee, and good books constitute a large portion of my personal religion.  I’d go even further and say that there are few ailments a bowl of soup can’t cure.  Busyness, illness, loneliness: homemade soup is the panacea.

Orlis and I have created a weekly ritual for ourselves this fall — to deliver a quart of homemade soup once a week to someone who could use it.  Now, so far, I’m not talking about deep charity here — we aren’t lugging our quarts of soup into the streets and offering them to the homeless..though it’s only October, who knows?  We are simply delivering to friends.  Friends who could use a dinner delivery for one reason or another — a sick neighbor, a buried law school student, a beloved friend who has a bit too much in her proverbial soup bowl this fall — that kind of thing.

Having grown up in a smaller town, I retain the quaint memories of neighborliness that imbued my childhood with a sense of community and ease.  I don’t mean idyllic Norman Rockefeller scenes — but rather borrowing an egg here, a cup of sugar there, and the general sense that a little help is just around the corner if you need it.  At this time, last year, when Orlis was just a few weeks old, we received 27, count them, 27!, meal deliveries at our tucked-away Brooklyn neighborhood, and each and every one of them completely saved our lives, not to mention trumped any other kind of baby gift we received.  A little community-mindedness goes such a long way.

What has struck me about our soup delivery ritual these last few weeks is how darn easy it is.  Soup is magical.  We plan for a big pot of something on Monday nights and guess what we do?  We double it.  That’s it.  A few extra carrots, one more onion, and another cup of beans, and a few hours later we not only have dinner for ourselves for the night (and a few lunches to follow) but one or two extra quarts to give away.  We pack it up and make our delivery on Tuesday, in some cases getting the containers from last week’s delivery back again with an effusive thank-you note.  And that’s it.  We’ve saved someone’s evening and all it took was a few extra cups of water. (Okay, sometimes we make cookies too.)

Mathematically, it hardly works out — a little effort on our part (Orlis’ curiosity about tupperware being central to the delivery fun) and so much gratitude in return.  But isn’t that just the way of giving?  So much more in it for the giver, right?  So, it’s small town NYC for the coming weeks, and aren’t we lucky.  Soup Tuesday, thank you.

 

 

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the Real Deal

small space collaboration

small space collaboration

Two nights ago, I attended a 15-person birthday dinner party at the home of my friend David.  David’s apartment is a classic [tiny] Brooklyn studio with a kitchen the size of my closet (about 2 square feet of counter space) and just adjacent, a “main room” the size of a suburban walk-in closet.   It was 90 degrees outside in an apartment with no air-conditioning.

This is the kind of space where one would think you couldn’t do much cooking (let alone, entertaining) beyond heating up the occasional potpie.  There is a limited number of chairs and nowhere else to sit except on David’s bed.  The bathroom is right there, its proximity making audible any sounds or activities that occur inside it. This is both the quintessential New York scenario and also the basis for the kind of excuses that I hear all the time from people around these parts — “I can’t have people over, my apartment’s too small.”  “There’s no space to cook in my kitchen.”  “I don’t have any furniture.”   “My only day off is Monday and no one wants to come over on a Monday.” “I’m not a good enough cook.”  “I don’t have any time.”    blah blah blah blah blah.

making homemade gnocchi

making homemade gnocchi

What I love about David (and what I loved about this night) is that he appears virtually unaware of his own limitations. No counter space?  Great!  Let’s make the most labor-intensive and space-requiring food that exists — homemade gnocchi!  Hot apartment?  Great!  Let’s crank up the oven and roast 2 fatty pork shoulders for several hours.  Tension among the invites and lots of big personalities?  Great!  Let’s turn up the music and let them fight over the chairs!  Meanwhile, we all basked in the hilarity of real life.  Real life, without pretense.  Real life, with successes (incredible gnocchi) and failures (inedible panna cotta).  Real life, with real people who aren’t being careful.

What I love about David is that he’s not waiting around for conditions to be perfect in order to do what he wants to do. Small space and no A.C.?  Who cares?  He wants to have a dinner party to celebrate his birthday and to cook for his friends and so, we want to be there for it.  Sure — a rotating fan or a different locale entirely might make it a bit more comfortable but really, being available to do it on these terms — David’s current situation — is really the most fun.  It makes space for failures.  It allows us to see, firsthand, the actual sweat that goes into making something from scratch, and we can actually taste the love in the results.  And, it relinquishes us from the almighty grasp of needing to look or think or be a certain way and just show up for what is right now.

cooking for 15

cooking for 15

What I love about David is that he trusts his friends to love him unconditionally. What ensued over the course of that evening was that we dug in and made a real experience out of it.   We collaborated.  We threw a few extra hands into the tiny kitchen to create an assembly line.  We held chicken liver pate in one hand and a slice of poppyseed dessert cake in the other.  We ate and drank and talked and laughed and we sweated our asses off in the process.  We cracked jokes at David’s expense, took pictures of our floury, sweaty mess, and passed the delicious food around like we were family. That David trusts us to enjoy him and love him in these conditions has us open our hearts in a new way — not just to him, but to each other.

I’m not going to ask David for his panna cotta recipe, but I am going to walk with this:  when we sit around and wait for the conditions in life to be perfect — for everything in our lives to line up just so, so that we can make the move we want to make — we aren’t really living.  We are waiting.  And, in the meantime, there is so much fun to be had, success to celebrate, food to share, risks to take, failures to learn from, and real people out there who want to see us for who we really are.  Why wait?

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