MUSIC TO READ BY

Fiction

Proust's Soup by Giovanni Berchtold

A Sacred Virgin by Paulette Licitra

on a friday evening by Keith Leidner

Ropa Vieja by Raul Palma

Deidre's Last Meal by Esther Cohen

Wired by Alan Linton

Chestnut by Katherine Gleason

The Moon is an Outdoor Sandwich by Patty Houston

Garlicky Greens by Lois Marie Harrod

First the Shell, Musical; Then the Custard, Irrevocable by Sarah Begley

Meals of Choice by Dorian Fox

A Low Table by Christian Aguiar

The Sylvian Fissure by Rosalie Loewen

Two Versions of Eating Potatoes by David Spiering

Conch Salad by Michele Ruby

Hopper by Michael Onofrey

Caution: Coffee is Hot by Gary Scott

The Fairy Part by Alberto Giuseppe

Foie Gras by Judith Edelman

Rosemary and Olive Oil by Gail Gauthier

Mario's Shoes by Natalie Parker-Lawrence

Cake by Marianne Villanueva

Retreat: October on Copper Mountain by M.E. Parker

The Sandwich Diaries by Angus Woodward

But There Was No Star Anise by Andrew Martell

Fruit Route by Susan King

Proust's Soup

by Giovanni Berchtold

August 2014    

“The taste was that of the little piece of Madeleine which…my aunt Leonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea…” — Swann’s way, vol.2

In the dim light of the cool early morning make your way into the kitchen. Turn the long metal handle of the faucet inward and watch as first a slightly dirty burst, then a clean sparkling sheen of water flows into the large, old, aluminum pot. Long ago as a child sitting at the kitchen table you couldn’t see the water flowing in but you would imagine your mother there, her long, thin white arms protruding away from the dark, flower-patterned dress she was wearing, her light brown hair tied loosely in the back, as you ate freshly baked Madelines for breakfast…crap, the water is overflowing. Nothing to worry about. Just turn the handle shut and tip out some of the excess until with your eyes you judge there is the right amount. Put the pot on the back burner, on the lowest of heat, as it will have to simmer and simmer through the day.

Shift your attention to the cutting board, and all the cleaned vegetables resting there. The celery, the onions, the shallots, the carrots…all of them you will have to chop, taking care to look as their wholeness begins to fracture beneath the blade and their scent begins wafting throughout the kitchen, that same smell that greeted your arrival every summer until you went away and in the city stopped having dinner at home and began buying food already prepared, sushi, Chinese, MacDonald’s, not quite like the sweets your mother used to buy in the summertimes, in the evenings as together you went strolling along the main road, pausing by the windows of each store to see what was inside. They were tranquil moments, then, before age, love and boredom were to have taken most of what remained of life.

Uh, where was I? Oh, yeah, the vegetables. Chop them all into more or less evenly sized morsels as later they will all go into the pot together. But first the chicken pieces must be placed into the water and then the water skimmed, as it will be skimmed all through the day, over and over again, to take away the impurities from the soup until it becomes clearer, until each of the pieces, though mixing in it’s own important flavor to the whole, can be distinguished as they dance and twirl in the water from the others, even if only for a moment. At a certain point you will have to break the spaghetti sticks into smaller pieces, they are harder and will crack when you do, but as the flour becomes permeated with the gently boiling broth they will gain suppleness and will blend in with the other ingredients, absorbing some of the flavor.

Staring into the nearly finished soup, at each of the pieces, and breathing in the scent when you know its almost finished, only slightly different and less green than it was earlier in the day, just as you did when you would come back from the evening stroll and the same scent would be throughout the house and then you would look for the sweets that had been bought and set on the great cherry wood credenza next to the oak table for later, the table would already be set with the white porcelain plates and bowls and heavy glasses beside and… Merde! Look the time, it’s nearly 8:10pm and your sister will be arriving soon, she, now, lovely and tall with Katrina, her baby, she will be holding her in her arms and, and damn I still have to take a shower, and, oh, hell with it. Who am I kidding? God I hate it when they bring the kid, always whining, doesn’t like my soup, says it tastes like old socks, says she prefers pizza. Old socks. Pizza. I’d like to wring her little French neck…. Oh, I almost forgot. Before serving sprinkle first with a little extra-virgin olive oil and then the edible wildflowers and toasted pumpkin seeds.

My own invention. Mom never did that.

The real soup within the soup of the soup: Add the roughly chopped vegetable pieces into a large pot of cold water, then place on a burner. Once it comes to a boil add the chicken, partially cover and reduce heat to a minimum and cook for at least an hour or until the chicken meat begins to fall from the bone. Remove impurities that float to the top from time to time with a spoon and check the seasoning. Once done, drain the soup, removing the solid pieces and keeping the fluid. Place the drained soup back into the pot. Increase the heat and once returned to a boil add the broken spaghetti noodles. When the pasta is cooked, ladle into individual wide-rimmed bowls and sprinkle with some olive oil, decorating with one or two edible flowers and a few toasted pumpkin seeds (optional). Serve with a lightly structured red wine.

 



  Giovanni Berchtold is a rather oldish guy, hairy and round. Well, by comparison anyway. Maybe too much time cooking, maybe a bit fanatical on looking at behavior as emergent and...other stuff. He spends much of the time in Italy but was born and raised in Cleveland - so is therefore critically perplexed about the whole LeBron thing.

 

Photo used under Creative Commons.