Saturday, October 10, 2009
Today was a day to sit around and do nothing.
Major University is closed Monday in honor of Columbus Day, and I have no classes on Fridays, so Thursday night I left campus and came home. The air has been crisp and cold lately, the sky that gorgeous shade of dark blue it only assumes as Fall transforms the landscape and chills the soaring ceiling of the Earth.
The blustery weather was enough to change my mother's mind on an issue she'd previously said was already decided.
"You're lucky," she said as she got out of my father's truck this morning, walking across the driveway under steel clouds as a shiver-inducing wind blew her hair. "I'm making soup."
For those of you who aren't aware, my mother is famous for her home-made chicken noodle soup, which her mother taught her how to cook and which she in turn has fed to us since we were small children. It's among the things I most enjoy eating, but is very definitely a seasonal food; this dish can only fully be appreciated in cold weather, which means that the last batch usually comes in February or so. Though in this state spring is far from begun in February (it snowed this year in April), winter is waning then, and the soup somehow doesn't feel right under those circumstances.
The making of the inaugural bowl each Fall is one of the surest indicators in our family that autumn has actually begun, and we usually mark the tradition in October or late September (though last year, emergency circumstances moved the first soup up to August).
My parents unloaded the groceries they'd purchased, assembled the ingredients on the kitchen table, and got to work.
The soup takes several hours to cook, so in the meantime my mother made muffins to tide everyone (including my father) over.
As we sat at the kitchen table gobbling the baked goodies, she cut up carrots, celery, and onions, let them boil on the stove with chicken broth and diced tomatoes, and then put the chicken in the pot closed the lid.
Thomas, Pie, and I passed the waiting time playing out back in the chilly air, which made us anticipate the soup's completion all the more. Fall's simple drop in temperature spreads hunger on the very wind. I've never been able to explain it.
Pie is now on a community soccer team and wants to be outside kicking the ball around at all hours of the day. The truth is, she's quite good at it, better in fact than we could ever actually tell her; she easily outmaneuvers the other children in her league (let alone on her team), and it's completely normal for her to outscore anyone on either side during any given game.
She knows that she enjoys the sport and would like to think she has a knack for it, but because she's six she doesn't realize how much better she is than everyone else on the field.
Witholding this information from her, while still providing strong encouragement, is a wise thing to do; Pie, for all her sweetness, has a hypercompetitive streak. No matter how much we tell her that the game is about having fun, she has to win. It's actually something I admire about her.
After she went in, Thomas and I stayed outside, tossing the football back and forth. Once we'd done this for a while (and marveled at the surprising accuracy and strength of my throws), Thomas decided to start punting in random directions, with the not-so-veiled goal of hitting either the house or one of the lights along the path to our pool.
We continued happily on this course until a stray kick sent the football crashing against the kitchen window, which brought my father outside to ask what we were doing.
Around two o'clock in the afternoon, the soup was done.
The finished result was delicious, a mix of soft noodles, tender chicken, and succulent vegetables soaked in a hearty broth.
This soup is a hallowed favorite from childhood, and I'm known to eat a lot of it. Beautiful Cousin claimed I had four bowls, though I only counted three, but regardless of the number it was thoroughly enjoyed.
We took turns ladling the delicious stew from its pot, then retreated with our bowls into the living room, where the ceramic and broth warmed our laps through blankets and sweat pants as we settled in for a long movie.
Our entire Saturday was occupied with watching DVDs, bantering about the weather, and consuming ridiculous amounts of Fudge Cicles.
Every now and again, a person needs to spend a day refraining from doing anything of consequence, needs to regard leaving the house as arduous and changing out of one's pajamas an undue burden.
"I took off my pajamas, showered, and then put another pair of pajamas on," Thomas laughed tonight.
Days like this are poisonous in any amount, but as a rare indulgence they renew and replenish the spirit.
Tomorrow, I'll work on my book and go out with friends. Today, I had soup.